British workers 'among worst idlers', suggest Tory MPs

Car plant Unions say British workers put in some of the longest hours in Europe

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British workers are "among the worst idlers in the world", a group of Conservative MPs has claimed.

The UK "rewards laziness", does not encourage risk-taking and must strive to emulate the work ethic and low-tax culture in parts of Asia, the five MPs argue in a book due out next month.

The authors include Elizabeth Truss and Dominic Raab, both tipped to be promoted in a future reshuffle.

"Too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work," they argue.

The other contributors to Britannia Unchained are Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Kwasi Kwarteng, influential members of the "class of 2010" - MPs elected to Parliament at the last election.

Unions described their comments as "ridiculous" and said the most serious challenge facing the economy was a "severe lack of jobs".

'Rewarding laziness'

The MPs' arguments will intensify the debate in the coalition government about how to reverse the slide in the economy, which has seen the UK slip into a double dip recession.

Many Conservatives on the right of the party argue the government's pro-growth initiatives are inadequate and that changes to the labour market, tax cuts and other "supply side" measures needed to boost competitiveness are being held back by the Lib Dems.

The five MPs - who are all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs - say the UK needs to reward a culture of "graft, risk and effort" if it is to compete with fast-growing nations.

"Britain will never be as big as China and Brazil but we can look forward to a new generation, ready to get to work," they argue in excerpts of the book published in the Evening Standard.

"If we are to take advantage of these opportunities, we must get on the side of the responsible, the hardworking and the brave.

"We must stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness."

The UK, they argue, is being held back by an excessive public sector, substantial public sector pension liabilities and a welfare system which does not provide sufficient incentives to work.

'Poor productivity'

Most controversially, they suggest "poor productivity" is due in part to attitudes to work in the UK - which they compare unfavourably with countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.

"Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world," they write. "We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor."

Start Quote

The problem with the UK economy is not its workers, but a severe lack of jobs”

End Quote Brendan Barber TUC General Secretary

Under the EU Working Time Directive, most employees cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours although the UK has an opt-out enabling people to request to work longer if they choose.

The coalition government is currently planning to raise the retirement age for men and women to 67 by 2025, eight years earlier than previously planned.

In contrast, new French president Francois Hollande has said he wants to lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

'Lack of demand'

Unions said the millions of people out of work or working fewer hours than they wanted would find the MPs' arguments "deeply irritating".

"The problem with the UK economy is not its workers, but a severe lack of jobs," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"It's not the UK work ethic which is holding the country back but a lack of demand in the economy - a situation that is being made considerably worse by government spending cuts.

He added: "Economic success won't come about by turning the screw on British workers, but by investing significantly in jobs, skills and infrastructure for the future."

Ministers say efforts to reduce the deficit and to unlock growth in the economy go hand in hand.

The government has promised further initiatives to boost employment and investment in the autumn on top of recent announcements on housebuilding, broadband and train building.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    There is some truth in this I am afraid. There is an ingrained work ethic in the Britsh working class that management are automatically the enemy and it is the workers right to skive, go sick, p*ss about and to get as much for themselves as possible even if it means the company going under. I am a manager I speak from experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    I do not understand how these lazy MPs have time to write a book

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    Many Tory MP's are not fit for purpose. many MPs appear to be in the pockets of the biggest corrupt risk takers in the UK, the City and the Financial Services industry. Many Tory Mp's appear to be selectively deaf where proposed legislation would affect the. Perhaps if the same Tory MPs had had a proper job which meant physical hard work their comments would have some weight, but they don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    Interesting comments coming from two children of African immigrants one set of which were shopkeepers and all four of whom were state educated (two comprehensives and one a grammar school) save for one who reached a private school on the back of a scholarship. They are right and those who feature as the critics of their statement on this blog are noted for blaming everything but the layabouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    MPs are amongst the laziest and least monitored - remember Margaret Moran(?) who did nothing, couldn't be contacted by constituents but lobbyists could always get a response? (source: BBC Panorama I believe).
    And Mensch, who has time to create/run an alternative to Twitter while paid to be an MP.

    But... that said, they're also right about other lazy British "workers".

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    O.K. - the 54% of Tory MP's elected for the first time in 2010 who went to private schools got there by hard work alone. And why doubt their capacity for graft or sense of social responsibility when one in Corby is giving up after two years and another looks like getting dumped out of Cannock for attending nazi themed parties. This crew have no life experience, no maturity and no right to preach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    Recommend visiting Click on MPs, (listed in alphabetical order) scroll down to member's allowances and/or interests.

    Very revealing - it also indicates that whatever the politics - many MPs are doing very well indeed and rather too comfortable and therefore smug and out of touch with reality of ordinary workers in the UK.

    The same for MEPs, MSPs, MWPs and NI MPs too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.


    That comment suggests little understanding about how human beings actually function.

    Most people I know who are in work, are working their butts off, and those who aren't are gagging for a chance to.

    Any twit can bully and cajole others - but can these MPs show any leadership ability? The laziness is theirs in making the 'easy' remark rather than addressing the real problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    What you see and hear on the news is thatg there would appear to be no more lazier people than the sitting MP's>
    Who are unable to come to any meaningful conclusions to anything resembling sense inside of a parliamentary sitting.

    As people more learned than I always said if you can't get a proper job become a MP - there will always be a shoe in seat if you can find the money for the party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    The only thing that is low in this country is the Morale of its people, ground down by successive far right policies of the coalition, pay freezes, rising cost of living, watching the chosen few take billions in banking support. Even after the warnings from the Riots last year, the Tories blamed the police for failing in their duty. No responsibility taken for their policies that caused it.

  • Comment number 872.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    Good to see the "Class of 2005" so effectively re-toxifying the Tory brand. It nearly worked didnt it Mr Cameron ? All those soothing words about the public sector, gay people, single mums and the rest in the run up to the 2010 election. Still didnt win though and all the while your rabid back benchers were just biding their time to start saying what they REALLY thought. Looks like the time is now

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    Ive worked across the globe.

    And yes we dont work that hard, people should not equate being at work for long hours as working hard.

    Ive seen people in other countries achieve more in the half the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that they want to emulate the asian work ethic, but I'd rather have lazy workers than a nation of dehumanised, nigh-on suicidal folk who define themselves solely by their labours and live for no other purpose than to work. We're not robots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    The pitiful title "Brttannia unchained" should be sufficient for most sensible people to treat this report with a large spoonful of salt. People who don't know much writing about things they know little about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    #840 Dave
    I do not agree that the work ethic is fading. What I do see is poor management and leadership resulting in people just going through the motions! I am regularly in companies where there are people that are lazy bone idle types, when I delve the management made them become that!
    For the perpetual unemployed/able though,they need sorting and fast!

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    The Germans work less hours, take more holidays, have a better quality of life, their children have shorter school days and are more productive. Mainly because they have a better government, better management and an investment culture, rather than a quick profit 'city' culture. Perhaps a fact finding mission might be in order to see what we can learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.

    With this story, I think the Tory party has now blamed literally everybody but themselves for the economic downturn: the unemployed, the employed, the retired, the disabled, the able-bodied, nationals, foreign nationals, immigrants, Europe, strong & weak economies around the world, the Queen, the Olympics, Labour... Way to represent your people, Tories!

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    These comments come from an elite and wealthy group who from birth have had no real experiance to give these biased and unsupported views.Manyof which have never experianced a HARD DAYS WORK in their lives & are unawareof thetoll this can take over the years. They are in polotics to gain insentives ,cash & influence by working in Government to line the pockets of wealthy corperate backers .

  • rate this

    Comment number 863.

    831. Mr W

    We should seize the moment and ride the Olympic wave, and all emigrate around the globe taking with us our cuisine, because in 20 years the only way to earn money will be the phone rings in China, India or South America and someone is ordering a British from our takeaways, with a side order of sarcasm, severed up in our traditional indifferent lazy manner!


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