You had to laugh when they announced that the productivity gap in the UK was growing. “Do the Math”.
- Loads of cheap labour either already in the UK or rushing to the UK after the financial crash – chicken and egg arriving together
- Added to this, a lot of highly skilled people in industry and government related activity who found themsleves victims of the crash and who were prepared to work at well below the market rate in order to survive
- a growing jobs base based on unskilled work
- Companies recognising that they did not need to contribute to training, or, more to the point, not even considering whether training is worthwhile to begin with. This, by the way, is something that has been going on for 20 years or more now.
- The gig economy
Whatever they may say, there has been a surplus of labour since before the crash. The law of the market works here. If there are more workers than jobs, then wages will stagnate and employers have no incentive to drive up productivity. Even in skilled jobs, such as medicine, we have simply imported the labour from wherever it was cheaper, Poland, Eastern Europe being the preferred parts of the world as there was a plentiful supply of cheap but well educated labour. Meantime, successive governments have sheltered behind the growing labour force, just happy that they did not have to stand and justify themselves in front of the people. A job is a job.
If you want to make a comparison with high skills, high productivity economies, they have been carrying a much higher level of unemployment. So, France is highly productive, with a short working week and very high unemployment, because the barriers to employment and making people redundant are so high.
Resolving the Productivity Problem
So, what is to be done, and what is likely to happen.
The second is easy to answer – precisely nothing. Parliamentarians of all hues run scared of jobless figures, and seem frozen in thought and time in their attitudes to work.
What should be done, on the other hand, is to make chance to lay out new rules for work. It remains a fact that work defines people. Working makes most of us happy, until and when the work is the type that bores us, or gets on top of us. In the modern jargon, we don’t want work that stresses us out.
So my first demand is for “social work”.
My second is for a complete end to the “gig” economy, no more piece work under the guise of flexible labour.
The third is for a radically higher minimum wage, something like the guaranteed income suggested by the Finns in a moment of enlightenment.
The change to an economy based on social need rather than constant growth – things can’r by definition grow forever.