Productivity underperformance is a national emergency

Graph from ONS showing output per hour worked was flat in the four quarters to Q4 2022
Date: 26 April 2023

London, 26 April 2023 – UK productivity data published by the Office for National Statistics today showed that growth in output per hour worked in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2022 was flat (0.0%) compared with Quarter 4 2021.

Responding to these figures, Anthony Impey, CEO of Be the Business, an organisation that champions small business productivity, said:  

“The latest figures from the ONS confirm a continuation of the UK’s underpowered productivity performance. Poor productivity means we are less resilient to economic headwinds and this represents a national emergency.”

“Productivity is the single biggest determinant of living standards, and the country is already significantly poorer because of the long-term trend.

“We can – and must – turn this picture around. This isn’t an impossible task, but will require business leaders to make a deliberate effort to improve their management skills – a proven driver of firm-level productivity.”

A recent report from Be the Business identified a capabilities crunch in the micro and small business. The sixth edition of its Productive Business Index found that only a third (33%) of business leaders took action to improve their management skills in past 12 months. The report also identified lower levels of activity among business leaders to adopt business technology, improve HR practices and increase operating efficiency.


Notes to editors

The Productive Business Index 

Be the Business published the latest edition of its Productive Business Index (PBI) on 20 April. The PBI focuses on the productivity of micro, small- and medium-sized businesses in the UK. It tracks changes in five key areas (management skills, training and HR, innovation, process efficiency and technology adoption) as well as general operating conditions, barriers to growth and expectations for the future.  

Be the Business surveys over one thousand founders, owners and leaders of the UK’s SMEs to track changes in five areas of business activity; 

  • Management capability;  
  • Technology adoption;  
  • Training, development and HR;  
  • Operating efficiency;  
  • and Innovation. 

The Productive Business Index: Edition Six can be found at

The data is derived from a large-scale survey of 1,179 senior decision-makers working in companies of 2 - 249 employees conducted by Opinium between 1st and 14th March 2023 

About Be the Business

Be the Business are the small business productivity champions. We inspire behaviour change in business leaders to deliver greater productivity by convening private sector expertise, innovating impactful programmes and identifying ways to increase demand for business support.

In doing so, we aim to transform the UK economy, raise the value of businesses in our communities, safeguard jobs and improve standards of living.

We offer access to experts who can help others understand the UK's productivity puzzle; business leaders who are getting big results by doing things differently; and research focused on improving productivity.


For further information contact James Gribben, Head of Communications, on 07900885721.