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Education gaps slow U.K. productivity

Stephen Beard Jun 26, 2007


Doug Krizner: The Brits may have one of the strongest economies in Europe — but the country is not so hot when it comes to productivity. In fact, the U.K. lags way behind other large countries, especially the U.S. and France. From London, Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: Fifteen years of uninterrupted economic growth have left Britain richer, but still far less efficient than its rivals. The comparison with other large economies is embarrassing, according to a new study.

In terms of output per working hour, Britain is 13 percent behind Germany, 18 percent behind the U.S. and 20 percent behind France. John Van Reenen, head of the Centre for Economic Performance, which carried out the research, says Britain’s problem is low educational attainment.

John Van Reenen: We have a lot of people with pretty poor basic skills. So we have something like between 5 and 7 million people who are functionally illiterate and innumerate.

He says the U.S. has a similar lack of basic skills, but America’s edge on productivity comes from a higher concentration of college graduates.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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