The UK’s “poor productivity” is down to the fact that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, a group of Tory MPs has claimed.
The five MPs, who are joint authors of a book that is out next month entitled ‘Britannia Unchained’, attest that the country “rewards laziness”, bails out the reckless and fails to encourage risk-taking. The problem is that “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”, they argue, which means that attitudes to work compare unfavourably with countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor,” the MPs, who are all members of the Conservative Free Enterprise Group, said. Under the European Union’s Working Time Directive, however, most employees cannot be made to work for more than 48 hours per week, although the UK has an opt-out that enables people to work for longer if they choose. Enabling economic success Moreover, the coalition government currently intends to raise the retirement age for both men and women to 67 by 2025, a full eight years earlier than was previously planned. But the five warned that the UK needed to reward a culture of “graft, risk and effort” and “get on the side of the responsible, the hardworking and the brave” if it was to have any chance of competing with fast-growing economies such as China and Brazil. TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, told the BBC that the problem with the UK economy was not so much its workers but a “severe lack of jobs”, however. “It’s not the UK work ethic which is holding the country back, but a lack of demand in the economy – a situation that is being made considerably worse by government spending cuts,” he said. “Economic success won’t come about by turning the screw on British workers, but by investing significantly in jobs, skills and infrastructure for the future.” Co-authors Elizabeth Truss and Dominic Raab are both tipped for promotion at a future reshuffle, while fellow writers, Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Kwasi Kwarteng, are members of the so-called “class of 2010” – MPs who were elected into Parliament for the first time at the last election and are keen to make their mark. Extracts of their book have already been published in the London Evening Standard.