Scrap bank holidays? I have a better idea

I couldn’t quite believe this was for real when I read it:

The Centre for Economics and Business Research says each bank holiday costs the UK economy £2.3bn.

They go on to suggest that cancelling all bank holidays will therefore add £19BN to Britain’s GDP. In other words, if we all work a bit more then the country will be better off.

What is really crazy about this is that they acknowledge that Britain is dependent on service industries which tend to shut down for bank holidays. But look at how one of the country’s largest service industries – banking – got us into this mess in the first place. They didn’t screw up and cause a global economic crisis because they took too many holidays. They worked too hard in fact, but at the wrong things. Perhaps if industry leaders had taken more time out to reflect then they might have seen how things were going to play out.

And it’s not just financial services that this applies to. All service industries require creativity, problem solving and innovation. You don’t get this by simply working harder. You get this by creating the right environment for smart people to be motivated and have the space to be productive. Time-off is essential to this – it gives the brain a chance to process. I have personally had great ideas whilst hiking at 4000M and on a scuba diving boat.

Bank holidays in the UK are very special for people in service industries. They’re the times when you get a holiday at the same time as just about all of your colleagues, clients and suppliers so you don’t come back to work having to catch up. Everyone is happier for the time off, and when we’re happy, we are more productive. And shouldn’t being happy be the goal anyway?

I would love to see how the CEBR has factored in these considerations, if at all. The BBC article doesn’t explain how they came up with this figure. I also visited the CEBR website and couldn’t find anything on there either.

I have a much bigger suggestion, and that is to stop using GDP as our primary economic measure at all because it makes us chase the wrong things. I agree with Robert F. Kennedy who said “Gross National Product measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

2 thoughts on “Scrap bank holidays? I have a better idea

  1. Tom,

    Lets leave the GDP measurement in place – it has its uses as an indicator – but, as is implicit in what you’ve said, lets all get round to acknowledging that it’s only one of a multiplicity of measurements which can (and should) be used to evaluate the significance of where we’re at and where we might be going.

    Hope you’ve had a good Easter.

    What, if anything, do you think that ‘Georgeous George’s’ success in Bradford is telling us about how politicians / bosses / societal leaders are evaluated by the people of South Yorks?

  2. Exactly. The problem isn’t GDP in itself, it’s that it’s a far too narrow measure to be useful on its own. I feel pain every time I hear politicians talking about the essential need for growth when they just mean GDP. It’s like a CEO focussing only on growing top line revenues and ignoring the rest of the P&L and balance sheet. Got another post coming up about this!

    Haven’t ready about what’s been going on in Bradford – I don’t manage to keep up with all of the news back home while I’m travelling.

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