The Office for National Statistics (ONS), in response to the needs of UK policy makers and others who use our data, has produced an expanding range of productivity statistics and analyses in recent years. As government policy has focused more explicitly on measures to increase productivity and output, so the demand for better statistics has grown. Two important reviews of economic statistics, on structural change and regional issues by Christopher Allsopp, and on measurement of government output and productivity by Tony Atkinson, have helped to provide direction.
This investment is raising the quality of UK productivity statistics compared to those produced by other countries. In some areas, such as analysis of the effect of ICT investment and measurement of public services productivity, ONS can claim to be among a small group of the world's leading statistics agencies.
The improvements achieved, and those still in the pipeline, cover a wide range of inputs to productivity measurement. So far they have been available in a fragmented form. This ONS Productivity Handbook sets out to present the current position, so that users have a clear appreciation of the changes that have taken place and the challenges being addressed.
This Handbook is not intended as a competitor to the OECD Productivity Manual, which is the authoritative international source on methodology for productivity analysis. Taking the international standards as given, this is the first comprehensive guide to implementation and practice, showing how UK statistics have developed, and are developing, to help a wide range of users in government and beyond.
Productivity is a complex field, and by setting out the sources and uses of productivity statistics in a single publication, the Handbook makes ONS productivity material more readily accessible and coherent. It also serves to make more users aware of the data resources available and to encourage external input to further improvement.
ONS is responsible for a relatively small proportion of productivity analysis in the UK, but it provides most of the basic data on which the work of others depends. Productivity estimates usually rely on multiple sources, making it difficult to achieve consistency between the numerator (output) and denominator (input), between countries and regions, and over time. There is also the difficulty of measuring quality change, which affects both output and input. All of these issues are explored in the Handbook.
The ONS Productivity Handbook has been created in collaboration with statisticians and economists in several UK government departments, OECD staff and leading academics. We would like to thank all contributors to this first edition.