Perhaps I have just fallen for the hype, against the evidence of my own senses, but I always kind of thought that Japanese workers were pretty handy compared to other countries. The data on productivity from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) came as - if not actually a shock - a corrective surprise.
The UK is pretty much at the bottom of the G7 heap, apart from Japan. I am assuming this is due to the Japanese business taboo against reducing staff numbers. Humane (perhaps) but inefficient. I’m pretty sure the same can’t be said of business in the UK.
Again, Japan and the UK bring up the rear in the G7 productivity league. Too many workers, too little to do - this probably explains the large number of dozing ‘sarariman-of-a-certain age’ that one tends to see in certain chains of smoker-friendly cafes around town. Or do I have cause and effect in the wrong order?
This shows the flow of change over the past 22 years. A gradual relative improvement for the UK relative to most of the other G7 countries until 2005 and then a gradual fall. Japan fell below UK levels in ‘end of Bubble’ 1993 and has been pretty consistently tracking along the bottom ever since.
I suspect my understanding of the relative proficiencies of Japanese and UK industries goes back to my days in college and hearing about ‘Igirisu-byo’ (The British Disease) which referred to the chronic labour-relations problems that dogged the UK in the 1960s and 70s.
Nobody’s got round to creating a wikipedia page for Nihon-byo yet.
• Original data release can be found here.
• Guardian story, here.
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