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FOI: Philip Hammond had no evidence that disabled workers hurt productivity



philip hammond red briefcase
Chancellor
of the Exchequer Philip Hammond walks through Downing
Street.

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty
Images)



  • There was no evidence to support Chancellor Philip
    Hammond’s statement to the Treasury Select Committee that
    employing workers with disabilities lowers national
    productivity, the Treasury has admitted.
  • Hammond had made people angry last month when he said:
    “far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very
    high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of
    disabled people — something we should be extremely proud of —
    may have had an impact on overall productivity
    measurements.”
  • He doesn’t actually believe that, and the data don’t
    support it, the Treasury said in response to an FOI request
    last week.

LONDON — Chancellor Philip Hammond had no evidence to back his
statement that disabled workers lowered British productivity, the
government has quietly admitted.


Hammond made the statement to the Treasury Select
Committee in December
, during a discussion about why
productivity rates had fallen in the UK, and the effect of that
decline on British GDP.

Last week, the Treasury admitted there is no evidence to suggest
that employing workers with disabilities lowers national
productivity.

“There is no evidence of a relationship between aggregate
productivity measures and an increase in workforce participation
of people with disabilities. It has however helped to increase
economic growth and it is something we can be very proud of as a
country,” the Treasury said in a response to a Freedom of
Information request by Steve O’Hear, a writer for Techcrunch.



treasury FOI disabilities and productivity


The Treasury admits in a FOI response that there is no
evidence that employing workers with disabilities lowers
productivity.

HM
Treasury


At the committee hearing, Hammond had been asked why UK
productivity was near zero in 2017. He replied:

“It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation
in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by
marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the
workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should
be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall
productivity measurements.”

He was heavily criticised for the statement by
opposition MPs, who felt that it suggested that employing workers
with disabilities was unproductive.

“The Chancellor was not suggesting — and does not believe
— that increased participation by people with disabilities
has had any negative impact on the economy.”

The Treasury declined to comment when reached by Business
Insider. However, a spokesperson pointed to a section in its
FOI response that says:

“The Chancellor made a broader point about economy-wide labour
productivity. Both the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the
Office for Budgetary Responsibility have suggested that
increasing overall employment may have influenced measures if
productivity. The Chancellor was not suggesting — and does
not believe — that increased participation by people with
disabilities has had any negative impact on the economy.”

In an interview last week with Business Insider, IFS Director
Paul Johnson confirmed there was no economic evidence that
disabled workers lower overall productivity. The issue, Johnson
says, is that economists generally believe that when a country
reaches full employment as the UK has, then the extra workers
being pulled into employment tend to be “the number 10 and number
11 batsmen” — a cricket metaphor suggesting that industry will
already have employed the most productive workers. It may have
been that belief that Hammond was clumsily reaching for in his
December testimony, a Downing Street source suggested to Business
Insider.

“But even that [analogy] doesn’t work,” Johnson said,
“because the employment rate in Germany is similar to ours and
their productivity is much higher. In the short run, if we were
to employ a large number of lower-skilled or disabled people this
year that might drag average productivity down a little bit, but
that is not the underlying reason we have low productivity,” he
said.


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