Philip Hammond, disabled people aren’t responsible for the UK’s productivity problem

The average British worker is 27 per cent less productive than their German counterpart – Hammond needs a rap

James Moore
Friday 08 December 2017 15:23
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Disability Rights UK says there is not a shred of evidence to back up Hammond’s assertion.
Disability Rights UK says there is not a shred of evidence to back up Hammond’s assertion.

With apologies to Eminem: That’s an awfully hot coffee pot / Should I drop it on Philip Hammond? / Probably not, / But that’s all I got.

An adaptation of the rapper’s blistering freestyle takedown of Donald Trump was the best way I could find to express the fury I, and countless other disabled people, felt in the wake of the contemptible comments made by the occupant of Number 11 Downing Street on the subject of disabled workers.

The Chancellor told members of the Treasury Committee that “far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people ... may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.”

My wife alerted to me to that statement after this disabled worker had written a column, schlepped into Westminster to interview a senior politician, and then returned to my office to start research on one of the three I would write the next day. So you can see why, at the end of a long, but productive day, I felt the need to turn to Eminem’s visceral fury.

Philip Hammond: Disabled people finding jobs is partly responsible for UK's falling productivity

I needed something a lot more graphic than gosh old chap, what you’ve said there is a bit rum!

I’m not, by the way, after some sort of medal for putting in that effort. I was just doing what journalists do – and what disabled workers who are lucky enough to find employers with more enlightened views than those of Hammond, do in a myriad of other fields.

Once a reasonable adjustment has been made to facilitate their performing, they perform, putting in the same effort as their co-workers, if not more. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling an added (sometimes self-imposed) pressure to go the extra mile to show that I can work every bit as hard, and produce every bit as much, as my able-bodied colleagues in spite of my impairments.

Disability Rights UK says there is not a shred of evidence to back up Hammond’s assertion and it has the numbers – the things Hammond is supposed to be good with – to back that up.

Evan Odell, programme officer for Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning, has crunched a few numbers for the charity’s blog.

Having conducted a detailed statistical analysis, he found no significant correlation between rates of employment and productivity figures.

He also pointed out that at 11.4 per cent, disabled people make up only a small proportion of the workforce. So the addition of a few here and there isn’t what’s suddenly holding Britain back from becoming an economic powerhouse like Germany.

Launching a campaign to investigate the causes of low productivity in July, the Productivity Leaders Group noted that the average British worker was a full 27 per cent less productive than a counterpart in Germany.

Those figures ought to tell you that there is something other than the participation of disabled people in the workforce keeping our productivity down.

In point of fact, the so called “disability employment gap” between disabled workers and their able-bodied counterparts has, anyway, barely moved since the Conservatives returned to power in a coalition in May 2010.

Between July and September 2010 it stood at 31.26 per cent, according to figures supplied to me by another disability charity, Scope. Between April and June of 2017 it was 31.35 per cent.

That might help explain why a target of halving it by 2020 was scrapped. We’ve since been told by the Department for Work & Pensions that it would like to see another million hired over 10 years, a target which will also no doubt get revised again sometime down the line just like the last one was – to halve the disability employment gap by 2020.

The myth peddled by Hammond makes that all the more likely because he has provided cover for the backward-looking employers – and recruitment consultants – who conspire to keep productive disabled people out of the workforce.

It's not unusual for jobseekers with disabilities to have to fire off letter after letter after letter, and form after form after form, only to get knocked back when numpty recruiters note the tick in the box marked “do you have a disability”. So they often leave it blank (the charities advise doing that) only to get knocked back at interview.

Oh God, he’s in a wheelchair! And she’s got a cane. They’ll be demanding a cripple nap every five minutes if we hire them. Didn’t you hear Philip Hammond? Look, we aren't a charity here. Hand me one of those “Thank you for attending interview but you’ve not been successful on this occasion” letters would you?

That is what the destructive and dishonest statements made by Hammond open the door to.

They don't merit a civil response / Mr Hammond, it’s that burning coffee for you / Your fiction’s crass / Look at the facts / Before we crown you as an ass.

That was my rhyme by the way. Yes, yes, I know, I really ought to concentrate my productive efforts on the day job.

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