It is sometimes easy to forget that the Government is a major user of statistics, though those who remember the Rayner dictum (that official statistics in those days were primarily collected for Government) will need no reminder.  It was therefore an enlivening experience to hear a lucid and succinct presentation from Christopher Moir Director, Industry, Economics and Statistics, DTI, on the essence of the DTIs current understanding of research-based comparative data on UK productivity compared to its equivalent for the US, France and Germany.  Though measurement continues and demonstrates that there has been improvement, we still lag and are baffled in trying to fully explain its causes.  One important strand appears to lie in innovation; the UK is actually quite good at finding innovative ideas but is far less successful in exploiting them.  Additionally, the USs lead appears to be largely dependent on better total factor productivity ie not labour or capital productivity separately but in combination.

The story was told and illustrated by a dozen or so telling charts. Productivity has five drivers: innovation, enterprise, skills, investment and competition.  The conclusions of the analysis were:

 Rapid productivity growth was vital to sustaining economic growth.  The UKs productivity gap with other countries was a long-standing phenomenon, which could not be closed quickly.  The UKs key weaknesses appeared to lie in investment, skills and parts of the innovation system.  Effective microeconomic policy works with the grain of the market.  There had been some progress but much remained to be done.  The charts may be viewed by downloading a PowerPoint file: BSUG.ppt (5mg) Compressed file (391kb).