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Spectator Money

Has UK productivity really seen a revival?

12 July 2018

11:23 AM

12 July 2018

11:23 AM

Bank of England economists Will Holman and Tim Pike claim to have spotted a productivity revival, on the basis of a ‘recent pivot towards business investment to overcome greater labour scarcity’ aided by ‘major advances in technology’. But the Office for National Statistics reports that productivity actually fell by 0.4 per cent in the first quarter, while most experts agree that UK productivity is so far below where it might have been if pre-2008 trends had continued that the gap may never be made up. And both Carolyn Fairbairn of the CBI and Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce have recently lamented the sluggishness of growth in business investment. ‘It’s running at 1 to 2 per cent,’ Fairbairn said. ‘It should probably be in double digits given where we are in the economic cycle.’

So where and what, I wonder, are the labour-saving gizmos spotted by Holman and Pike? Could they perhaps be my current pet hate: dehumanised self-service tills in small shops? These have suddenly appeared even in our much-loved local Co-op — but no one wants to use them, so the queue for the human checkout is longer than before and productivity, I fear, has dropped.


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