The Productivity Puzzle: What is Wrong with the British Economy?
Sun, Oct 4 2015 10:38
Thursday 26th November 2015, at 7.30pm.
The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street, Birmingham, B1 1BN
The Bank of England reported recently that output per worker has been exceptionally weak since the downturn. And in July, commentators were shocked to discover that French workers, with their enviable work-life balance, are more productive than their British counterparts.
The West Midlands has suffered devastating losses in its manufacturing sector in recent decades. So was it the 2008 global meltdown that slowed down productivity, or does the problem predate that?
We should ask whether the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is doing something usefully innovative that we can emulate. Or whether, in fact, the focus on cities like Manchester is more symptomatic of a broader crisis of ideas in central government, a lack of political will to tackle the underlying problems of our economy, a desperate attempt to find a painless model of success.
Jeremy Corbyn has proposed infrastructure as a potential solution to economic decay, and he is far from alone in that. But to what extent is the state responsible for growth anyway?
It has become a truism that manufacturers are clinging to a ‘make do and mend’ approach to plant and equipment. Maybe this is where the fundamental problem lies. Without modernising the productive base, is the UK, the world’s industrial birthplace, condemned to perpetual stagnation, enjoying only intermittent and fragile growth spikes?
At a time when GDP stands at 4.5% above its pre-crisis peak and unemployment continues to fall, productivity is nonetheless a problem that resonates widely, and politicians are discussing it openly, after decades of denial.
What difference would increased economic productivity make to our lives?
An economist and business manager, Phil Mullan is author of The Imaginary Time Bomb: Why an Ageing Population is not a Social Problem (IB Tauris, 2000). He is currently researching the economic features of decay and resilience in the Western world, and writing a book entitled Getting Back Our Mojo. In business, he is director of Epping Consulting, following eight years in senior management roles with EasyNet Global Services and Cybercafé Ltd.
Senior Academic for Research in the School of Engineering, Design and Manufacturing Systems, Craig Chapman has worked in Europe, USA and the UK, in a range of senior business and design roles. In academia, Craig’s career has taken him from Senior Research Fellow, Head of the Knowledge Based Product Development Lab at Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick to Head of the Knowledge Based Engineering Lab and Senior Academic for Research at Birmingham City University.
The debate is produced and chaired by Sarah Bartlett.
Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation. HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2015
The UK productivity puzzle. Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, Quarter 2, 2014.
The productivity puzzle: a firm-level investigation into employment behaviour and resource allocation over the crisis. Bank of England Working Paper No. 495, April 2014.
The Future of Productivity. OECD, 2015
Inequality and how to solve the UK’s productivity puzzle. Birmingham Post, May 2015
Why are French workers more productive than Brits? The Guardian, July 2015