Chapter 1. Making the most of globalisation
The United Kingdom’s good macroeconomic performance over the past decade has been underpinned by a willingness to embrace the opportunities offered by globalisation, together with regulatory policies that promote efficiency and economic resilience. As a result, productivity growth has remained strong, while the workforce has been boosted by immigration in recent years. Nevertheless, the productivity gap with the United States remains large, and a number of reforms should be pursued in order to further improve growth performance. There is also a need to further reduce the government deficit. This will require much slower growth in government spending and more effort devoted to ensuring that publicly-funded services provide good value for money. In recognition of the need to support those who are least able to benefit from globalisation, policy has focused on supporting the poorest members of the population, with a continued emphasis on encouraging participation in work. Nevertheless, employment rates among the least skilled remain too low. A key challenge is to raise education performance without significant further increases in expenditure, while a related key challenge is to ensure strong incentives for the least skilled to participate in the labour market and to progress in work. Finally, it remains important to ensure that the tax structure preserves the United Kingdom’s position as an attractive business location.
Chapter 2. Raising education achievement within a tighter budget constraint
Globalisation, together with skill-biased technical change, is changing the composition of jobs in advanced economies and raising the level of skills required to do them. This has increased the importance of educating a large proportion of the population to much higher standards than in the past. The government has responded to this challenge by raising education spending and expanding the capacity of the education system in key areas such as pre-primary education and increased participation in education beyond the age of 16. The United Kingdom has also pioneered the use of school benchmarking techniques and the use of targets to raise school quality. However, targets may also have biased some measures of education performance. Socio-economic background plays an important role in explaining education performance, and the government has addressed this by the use of funding formulas which direct additional resources to areas with a higher proportion of pupils from deprived backgrounds. There has been some improvement in the most disadvantaged schools but pupils in the middle and lower half of the distribution continue to perform particularly poorly relative to students in countries with the best performing education systems. Overall, the socio-economic gaps remain large. One explanation may be that local authorities and schools are not distributing deprivation funds as intended by the central government, resulting in outcomes which can be seen as inequitable. Stronger measures may be required to correct this imbalance. This chapter proposes a number of avenues for encouraging higher educational attainment, without significant further increases in expenditure.
Chapter 3. Improving work prospects for the least skilled
The United Kingdom has had a good record of job creation over the past two decades with the aggregate unemployment rate and related expenditures falling, and employment rates at close to record levels. Although most disadvantaged groups including older workers, lone parents, and ethnic minorities have enjoyed significant improvements over the past decade, unqualified workers and younger people continue to fare less well. Moreover, while it has reduced significantly in recent years, there is still a considerable flow of people, including prime working age males, into disability benefits. The government has taken a number of positive steps to address these issues including tightening eligibility criteria, offering income supplements and providing personalised counselling. However more could be done, particularly in the area of skills training both prior to employment and while in employment, and in tackling distortions in work incentives that arise from the high cost of child care and through the interface of the tax and social security systems.
Chapter 4. Addressing the Productivity Gap
The United Kingdom has recorded strong productivity growth over the past decade, surpassing the performance of many continental European countries and thereby narrowing the productivity gap. However, despite narrowing substantially since the early 1990s, the productivity gap with the United States has remained unchanged more recently. While overall the United Kingdom has some of the least restrictive product and labour market regulations, it needs to guard against increasing red tape and tax complexities which can raise the costs of doing business. Restrictive planning regulations make entry of new firms in retailing difficult and inefficient land use raises property prices. Poor transport infrastructure is another potential factor reducing productivity growth, while R&D spending and adult training are relatively low.
Chapter 5. Tax competition: How to remain competitive?
Statutory corporate tax rates have been lowered in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, while tax bases have been broadened. This has rendered corporate tax systems more efficient. Falling tax rates are not proof of tax competition, but consistent with it. While the United Kingdom was early in cutting tax rates and had strong tax competitiveness, others have caught up. And some countries now have considerably lower tax rates, even after the recent announcement to cut the UK statutory corporate tax rate from 30% to 28% in 2008. This chapter assesses options to preserve international competitiveness.
How to obtain this publication
The Policy Brief (pdf format) can be downloaded in English. It contains the OECD assessment and recommendations.The complete edition of the Economic survey of the United Kingdom 2007 is available from:
For further information please contact the UK Desk at the OECD Economics Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. The OECD Secretariat's report was prepared by Anne-Marie Brook, Åsa Johansson, Petar Vujanovic and Marte Sollie under the supervision of Peter Hoeller.