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A QUESTION OF PRODUCTIVITY


Philip Hammond’s headline grabbing comments on disabled people being the cause of lowering productivity in the UK has led me thinking about this issue. I know this may sound controversial, is there any element of truth in Hammond’s observation. Have disabled individuals become less productive in our obsessed society of creating increasing efficiency? Our productivity is not a by-product of individual’s contribution towards the country’s economic growth; we all depend on other peoples’ efforts and having a society that allows us to undertake our activities with the minimum amount of fuss and red tape.

Increasingly I am wondering how less productive I have become as a society that has become more reliant on computers and technology rather than human contact. A very simplistic example is when one would like to arrange a meeting with one or two other people. Once upon time one would get on the phone with a paper diary – an appointment would be set within a minute or two. However, time involved pinging emails back and fore with a date that can be agreed upon, the whole process takes much longer than the traditional method of picking up the phone.

Within the work context, I have become less productive especially when it involves organising travel and event arrangements. Once-upon-a-time you could just ring a human being to book train tickets, find out where the venue is, cost and etc. Now everything involves a lot of screen work that includes setting up raged password accounts etc. – all feels energy sapping exercise from the core of my life-long work, campaigning.

On a broader note state funded provision and how its organised has to be the cause of lowering productivity of people who rely upon them; disabled people are heavily reliant on state funded welfare benefits, health and social care services and public housing and when these services break down, then disabled peoples productivity will be lowered. For example if you are self-employed with a fluctuating income one might be wasting more time engaging with the universal credit system than the existing tax credit system. More time dealing with being poor, means less time and energy getting on with the more productive activities in life.

It’s got to be said that disabled people become less productive because they are engaging in a much more punitive and bureaucratic system. Disabled people are taking on additional responsibilities which would not be necessary for over whelming majority of non-disabled people. For instance managing one’s care often involving taking on employer’s responsibilities on a full-time basis as the alternative is to be on the receiving end of institutionalised care in one’s own home or in an established private or council run care home. Think how much more productive could disabled people be if we had a social care system that promoted their full autonomy on par with their non-disabled peers. Disabled people could enjoy the same level of freedoms enjoyed by their non- disabled peers without the productivity sucking activity of full-time management. So when Hammond says disabled people are less productive, what he should be looking to is how Government’s systems have made this happen.

What this shows is that the idea of productivity is not inherent in any individual; our productivity levels are inter-connected with others in our society. Further, productivity is not situ in any single social grouping of people whether that is black people, disabled people or indeed any other identified group. How productive disabled people are is affected by how other groups of people let us contribute in society with minimal fuss. The chaotic health and social care and welfare system are designed by the ruling class; the overriding concern is one of economic efficiency rather than one of productivity. Having well-paid staff on proper contracts with opportunities to source training such as BSL, behaviour support etc is likely to lead to them being able to communicate more effectively with BSL PA users or Users with “challenging” behaviour which will make the relationship a more productive one. The fewer hours one is employed does not automatically equate to increased productivity. As all working relationships however short the period of time is, involves the usual establishing and terminating relationship in a respectful manner.

Productivity on the broadest level – what does it really mean? And should productivity be linked to only increase economic growth? Further does it matter how and what is contributed towards increased economic growth? Disabled people demanding full emancipation has created a whole disability industry; everything from creating Personal Assistants roles, design of specific pieces of equipment and aids, demand for specific training etc. and therefore increasing the economic growth. Moreover there are many disabled people who can contribute to the economic growth within a capitalist society. However, there will be some disabled people where their productive levels may create a loss rather than profit for the organisation even if we had a fully well-funded and organised public services infrastructure within a capitalist system. However, if we agree that productivity is always an interaction between individuals, groups of society and the political, social and economic systems we operate in, then we could all be productive in whatever that means for developing a happy and healthy and content society.


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