Lack of productivity growth continues to impact on UK employment

Productivity problemThe Government to be more interventionist in its support and work in partnership with business to help improve organisations’ productivity to improve salaries and performance, the CIPD has said. This follows the second quarter in a row when the CIPD’s survey of employers has anticipated a pay figure below the Government’s official inflation target of 2 percent. The Labour Market Outlook highlights how low inflation, expanding labour supply and the lack of productivity growth are working in combination to reduce the economic pressure for employers to pay their staff more. The UK is now in its eighth year of a productivity slump, which for employees means that pay growth is likely to remain sluggish until at least the end of the decade and for employers means that low productivity leads to tightened budgets. This ‘jobs-rich, pay-poor’ economy is set to continue as pay awards are expected to only rise by 1.7 percent in the next year.

The survey of more than 1,000 employers finds that employers expecting to make a pay award during the 12 months between March this year and March 2017 plan to award a median pay increase of 1.7 percent. In addition, the report finds that government-imposed increases in labour costs – such as the Apprenticeship Levy and increases to the National Living Wage will continue to reduce the scope for employers to raise pay for other workers, while the public sector continues to see wage rises kept to 1 percent or less.

Mark Beatson, CIPD Chief Economist comments: “These findings show that employers remain confident about short-term job prospects, with many more expecting to take on new staff than expecting to shed staff as the UK ‘jobs miracle’ continues. For now, there’s no sign of the economy running out of jobs, or out of people to fill those jobs.

“On top of this, employers are having to manage the consequences of government-imposed increases to the cost of employing people. The National Living Wage and roll-out of pension auto-enrolment were introduced to improve the living standards of low-paid employees, but this can only happen without significant job losses if the productivity of low-paid employees also increases. Simply making low-paid labour more expensive is not the answer and the Government shouldn’t be surprised if some employers choose easier options, such as reducing hours, chipping away at other benefits or making a less generous pay award the next time pay is reviewed.

“If the Government is going to intervene in this way, these policies have to be accompanied by a more active approach to helping businesses cope with these changes and improvements to their productivity; for example by providing more practical advice and support for businesses.”

The CIPD is warning that some businesses lack the knowledge and capability to raise their game and are stuck in a cycle of low investment, low training and low ambition. This applies especially to small businesses who often need support with the basics of running a business and managing people before they can progress to planning for expansion or raising their efficiency. Larger businesses may need help to address unresolved productivity challenges, such as the high proportion of people over-qualified for their role.

Beatson continues: “It’s not good enough for the Government to make these changes and say “over to you”. Instead they must play a more active role in supporting businesses, particularly given that we are likely to see further inflation-busting increases in the National Living Wage in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

He concludes: “Without productivity improvements, organisations will be forced to keep pay budgets under ever tighter control, which is why we believe the current jobs-rich, pay-poor environment is likely to continue as these increased costs to business take effect.”

To download the full report, click here

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