A member of the audience watches on her smart phone as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a campaign speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in central London, Britain, June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

  • Britain’s poor productivity is a central cause of its economic woes.
  • Many point to a lack of business investment as a root cause, but a recent Bank of England paper has a more novel suggestion: Smartphones.
  • Dan Nixon, a senior analyst at the Bank of England, said an influx of emails and phone calls is estimated to reduce workers’ IQ by 10 points — “equivalent to losing a night’s sleep.”

LONDON — During a speech last year, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane cited Paul Krugman: “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”

Britain’s productivity crisis has been a driving force behind the dismal economic growth that has characterised its economy since 2009, and policy wonks are increasingly concerned, with Chancellor Philip Hammond last week announcing billions of pounds of extra investment more pounds to his “National Productivity Investment Fund.”

But it’s difficult to fix a problem for which causes haven’t been properly diagnosed. While politicians point to a lack of investment in technology and skills as root causes, a recent Bank of England research paper has a more novel suggestion: Smartphones.

Dan Nixon, a senior analyst at the Bank of England, says persistently weak growth in productivity over the past decade has coincided with a ten-fold rise in global shipments in smartphones:

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That in itself is no more than proof of a weak correlation, but the question is worth exploring: how might distractions be weighing down on productivity? Nixon writes:

“The intuition is simple enough: our minds comprise the bulk of our human capital and what we direct our attention towards is integral to the ‘output’ of our mental activity. You would therefore expect the ability to pay attention to be a key input into Read More Here