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Output And Productivity

Volume 959: debated on Friday 1 December 1978

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, further to his speech to the TUC industrial strategy conference at Birmingham on 16th November, whether he will publish the evidence for saying that output and productivity growth in the United Kingdom has borne a constant relationship to that in West Germany, France, Japan and the United States of America for the past 80 years.

pursuant to his reply, [Official Report, 28th November 1978; Vol. 959, Column 192],gave the following answer:In my speech, I said that our inability to keep pace in output and productivity with countries such as Germany, Japan, France and the United States of America had been constant for 80 years. In an article by Mr. A. Maddison in the

Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review of June 1977, which was quoted by Mr. Sam Brittan in his Henry Simons lecture to the Chicago law school in April 1978, the following table appears:


Average of l6 advanced countries*

United Kingdom

Growth percentage

per annum

1870–1913 1·51·0
1950–1970 3·82·3

GDP per head in US 1970 dollars


Ratio of United Kingdom to average GDP per head


*Arithmetical average of United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Finland.


A. Maddison: Phases of Capitalist Development, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Quarterly Review, June, 1977.

The only country with a slower growth rate than the United Kingdom over the century was Australia. The United States growth over the century, 1870–1976, was 1·9 per cent. per annum, the Japanese 2·5 per cent., the German 2·0 per cent. and the French 1·9 per cent.

My remarks should not be taken to imply that in the countries I named as examples output and productivity growth were higher than in the United Kingdom in every year. But Mr. Maddison's work shows that over the past century, the United Kingdom was growing more slowly than other advanced countries, and that this holds for different sub-periods.