I suppose America’s work ethic peaked in the late 19th century and has declined somewhat since then. Still, compared with Europeans, Americans are considered hard-working. Thus the Telegraph headlines: “How hard-working US is getting rich while the UK struggles on benefits.”
The world’s biggest economy has pulled ahead of the UK and the rest of Europe on an array of economic measures since the financial crisis of 2008.
What began as a small disparity has become a chasm that has left Britain facing questions about whether it has the work ethic to close the gap.
These are the numbers:
Americans spend 20pc more of their time working than their British counterparts, working an average of 1,811 hours per year, compared with 1,532 hours, according to the OECD.
But that isn’t all: America’s productivity has increased faster than the Europeans’:
The differences on paper are already stark. Bowman highlights that in the decade before the pandemic, productivity growth of 8pc was twice as fast in the US as the UK. America’s economy has also grown much faster overall.
In 2021, an American worker was 26pc more productive than their British counterpart, producing $74.80 (£58.30) per hour worker versus $59.20 per hour for a British worker.
A more productive workforce means better pay, with the average American worker paid $77,500 in 2022, compared with $54,000 in the UK, according to one OECD measure that adjusts for buying power in each country.
As productivity advances compound over time, the consequence is that Europe’s more prosperous countries are on a par with America’s poorest states:
Every country in Europe is poorer per head than every state except Idaho and Mississippi.
The Telegraph compares American and European responses to the economic jolt caused by covid shutdowns:
When Covid hit, America preferred firings to furlough, albeit with government stimulus cheques helping to soften the blow of unemployment. More than 20 million people lost their jobs in April 2020 alone, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7pc – the highest since the Great Depression. But it also shifted workers to more productive areas of the economy on their return. By contrast, UK policymakers largely pressed the pause button, funding wage bills for staff in existing jobs.
The pandemic had a huge impact on both the US and UK workforces, but while America saw a bigger increase in unemployment, many Britons gave up looking for work altogether.
Not only did a lot of Americans who found themselves suddenly unemployed seek new jobs, many of them moved to more dynamic states like Florida, Texas, South Dakota and Tennessee.
Of course, this is nothing to be complacent about. Pretty much everything our federal government does is intended to weaken incentives to work and to be productive. Many states pursue similarly misguided policies. The single thing government can most directly do to encourage people to work both harder and more productively is to lower taxes on income and capital gains. But American liberals have not absorbed that simple lesson.