LONDON (Reuters) - Britain was far less productive than its G7 peers in 2014, lagging them on average by the most since records began in 1991, official data showed on Friday, highlighting a persistent problem for Britain’s government.
Productivity in Britain, measured as output per hour worked, was 20 percent below the average for the rest of the Group of Seven last year, the Office for National Statistics said.
It lagged the United States, Germany and France by a hefty margin and was slightly worse than Italy and Canada. The only country where productivity was lower was Japan, the data showed.
“These figures show UK productivity continues to lag behind other developed economies,” ONS chief economist Joe Grice said. “Since the economic downturn, productivity growth has slowed in most developed economies, but by more in the UK than the average.”
Finance minister George Osborne pledged in July to take steps to encourage more long-term investment in infrastructure and by businesses to boost productivity, which in the long run determines how fast living standards can rise.
Official figures for the first three months of this year — which did not feed into the international comparison — have suggested some improvement may be under way. A small quarterly increase led to the strongest year-on-year growth since early 2012.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said British productivity had been held back by the creation since the financial crisis of lots of low-skilled, low-paid jobs where productivity is limited. Analysts are unsure whether this will prove temporary.
What policymakers have termed Britain’s productivity puzzle casts a shadow over the Bank of England as it edges closer to raising interest rates.
The BoE is keeping a close eye on wage growth as it mulls its first rate increase in over seven years, but it has said that if productivity picks up pace, any pass-through to inflation will be lessened.
British wages grew at their fastest rate in more than six years in the three months to July, but inflation fell back to zero in August.
Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, editing by Larry King