CNN recently mentioned that:

the UK economy suffered a bigger contraction than any other G7 country last year at 9.8%

Wondering how the rest of G7 fared in more concrete terms, I found an older article with slightly more extensive data:

The UK's 9.9% contraction in 2020 compares unfavorably with the rest of the G7. The US economy shrank 3.5%, while Canada's economy is expected to have shrunk around 5%.

Germany shrank 5%, France contracted 8.3% and Italy's economy finished the year 8.8% smaller. Japan's GDP is expected to have contracted around 5.5%.

Typically Italy and France are painted in the Anglophone press as having huge, long-term systemic inefficiency problems, like an insufficiently flexible labor market, i.e. too hard to fire people over there, and they're working too few hours, etc.

So, how do UK leaders explain their country's performance last year was slightly below that of France and Italy? And pretty far from that of US, Canada or Germany. (I'm aware Covid-19 was around, but that can't by itself explain the difference, as it was everywhere in the G7 to some extent.)

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    I'm not aware that the government has tried to explain the difference. Kier Starmer's policy as leader of the opposition has been to be broadly supportive of the government, and even critics have focused on deaths rather than economic considerations. Many people would consider it disrespectful to the dead to focus too much on the economic cost. Most people in Britain don't know or care about Canada or Germany's response.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 5, 2021 at 20:14
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    I feel like this question is fishing for a particular answer... There were lots of additional factors in 2020 that had a large effect on the UK than the EU, especially France and Italy, so as a result the outcomes cannot necessarily be compared like you are doing?
    – user16741
    Oct 5, 2021 at 20:36
  • @Moo: I'm just asking what the government's story has been, not what some in-depth analysis might reveal was attributable to each factor. There's almost always a story that a government has a ready explanation. There were actually a few given in the comments above. Did the UK government answer with any of those in particular? Oct 5, 2021 at 22:11
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    The cliché of France suffering from huge structural problems is not limited to the Anglophone press. It features very frequently in French media and politics, all the way to the current president, when it comes to justify “necessary” reforms.
    – Relaxed
    Oct 5, 2021 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


I've managed to answer my own question to some extent. Despite the claims in comments that UK authorities would not have cared to provide such a comparative explanation... the ONS actually did:

Britain also suffered the G7’s biggest drop in household spending, the ONS said, noting that the country’s lockdown restrictions have generally been tighter and were imposed for longer.

The overall economic impact of lockdowns and social distancing may have been greater in Britain because social spending, such as eating out and holidays, is more dominant than in other countries, it said.

Inflation apparently also factored into that... although the way ONS phrased that (differential) effect is interesting:

In nominal terms - unadjusted for inflation - the collapse in economic output seen in Britain was “broadly comparable” to other G7 countries, and not as bad the drop seen in Canada, Italy or Germany, the ONS said.

However, international comparisons of economic performance are typically measured using inflation-adjusted figures.

If there were a different explanation from political leaders, I'd accept that answer, as it's what I asked in particular.

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