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Letter: Our productivity record nothing to be proud of

Sir: Hamish McRae's article "Ten events that may shake the world by the turn of the century" (4 February) was flawed both in its statistical presentation and its arguments.

Many readers will have been puzzled by the graph which purported to show that productivity levels in the UK are higher than in the United States, Germany or Japan. I can only assume that the author has taken growth rates in manufacturing productivity and confused these with levels. Comparing productivity levels across countries is more complicated than measuring growth rates in individual countries, but the best available evidence shows that output per worker-hour in the UK business sector is about 25 per cent below that of the USA and some 5 to 10 per cent below that of Germany.

He might have added that on a cyclically adjusted basis Britain's employment record in the 1990s has been weaker than our main EU competitors, and that France and Germany have trade surpluses whereas we have a trade deficit.


Chief Economist

Trades Union Congress

London WC1