British workers are noticeably less productive on average than those in comparable countries. According to the Office for National Statistics, output per worker was 20 percentage points lower than in the other top countries, which make up the G7.
Output per worker has fallen, relative to most of those countries, since the recession started in 2008.
But the figures may reflect a characteristic of the UK labour market that has shown through other recent data. It’s not that British workers are noticeably less productive, at least in a European perspective. Last year the amount produced each hour by each worker grew in line with the average and faster than in the US and Germany.
It’s that more staff are employed, and that pushes down the average output per worker. Despite flat market conditions companies have maintained their staffing levels, preventing a big rise in unemployment.
No single firm or employer is making a trade off between keeping employment levels relatively buoyant and some falling away of the output of staff, but at an economy-wide level, we seem to making a collective choice in favour of jobs over output.