• A survey of MPs showed that low productivity is widely thought to be a big problem; nearly two thirds (65%) believe it is a major economic challenge for the UK, behind only the government deficit (68%).
  • But it isn’t top priority for either of the two biggest parties, lagging behind low pay (92%) and inequality (80%) for Labour MPs and the deficit (87%) for Conservative MPs.
  • With little agreement among MPs about the main cause of low productivity, Britain’s political parties risk neglecting this key economic priority.

Low productivity is becoming the “Cinderella issue” of Britain’s economic debate, finds a new survey published today by Nesta, the innovation foundation. The results suggest that although many politicians see it as an important issue, it is overshadowed by other priorities for the two biggest political parties.

The ComRes survey of 150 MPs identified views on the most important economic issues currently facing the UK.  It also highlighted a lack of consensus on the root causes of low productivity in the UK economy, hindering effective action.  

MPs rank low productivity (65%) as one of the two biggest economic issues facing the UK, on a par with the government deficit (68%), the top concern. Yet for each of the two largest political parties, low productivity is eclipsed by other economic priorities. While two thirds (68%) of Conservative MPs see it as an important issue, it lags far behind their biggest concern, the deficit, which 87% highlighted. Among Labour MPs, low productivity (70%), lags far behind low pay (92%) and inequality (80%).

There is also little agreement on the causes of the productivity gap, with MPs from all parties equally rating a lack of access to finance for businesses (24%), poor workforce skills (22%) and low business investment (21%).

Nesta is calling for Britain’s political parties to rethink the UK’s stale economic approach and to drive growth through further investment in innovation, which accounts for the lion's share of productivity growth1. In a separate study, Nesta found that a failure to address the ‘productivity puzzle’ could be costing Britain least £96 billion a year2, which corresponds to 5% of the UK’s GDP.  

Stian Westlake, Executive Director of Policy and Research, Nesta said: “Low productivity is the most important economic problem the UK faces. It lies behind many of the issues preoccupying our politicians, from the deficit to low pay, and unless we tackle it, we are unlikely to solve our other economic problems either. Increasing investment in innovation, helping create a skilled workforce, and creating the right conditions for finance and investment should be top of the next government’s economic to-do list.”


Notes to editors

For further information contact: Natalie Hodgson, Nesta Press Office on 0207 438 2614 / [email protected]