Why Is Inflation In The UK Worse Than Other Major Economies?

The United Kingdom’s inflation figures are striking. With a stubborn rate of 8.7% persisting into May, the inflation rate far exceeds the Bank of England’s (BoE) 2% target. When compared to its global counterparts, including the US (4%), Japan (3.4%), Germany (6.3%), and France (6%), the UK situation looks decidedly grim. What are the reasons for the UK’s inflation predicament being worse than other major economies?

The Inflationary Pressure Continues

There’s a wide gap between the expected and actual inflation scenario in the UK. Back in early 2023, experts from influential institutions like Goldman Sachs predicted a rapid reduction in UK inflation rates, with some even foreseeing a dip below 2% by the end of the year. Those predictions now seem overly optimistic.

Despite falling energy prices, the much-anticipated ‘inflation dividend’ hasn’t come to fruition. Compared to other G7 countries, UK inflation remains stubbornly high, despite gas prices plummeting to almost pre-pandemic levels. This contrasts with economies like the US and Canada, where falling energy prices had a marked effect on taming inflation rates.

Peculiar Factors at Work

Several distinct factors in the UK have contributed to the upward drive of inflation rates. Let’s unpack these:

Brexit and COVID-19’s Effect on the Labour Market

The UK’s labour market has been battered by the dual effects of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike in France, where worker participation rates have risen above pre-pandemic levels, the UK is facing a decline in worker participation rates. This tightness in the labour market is pushing wages upward, adding to inflationary pressures.

Dependency on Food Imports

The UK’s food supply chain is heavily reliant on imports, especially from the EU. This dependency has become a liability, with rising raw material costs and Brexit-induced trade complexities. Food prices have skyrocketed by over 18% for most of the year, contributing to the UK’s overall inflation rate.

Lack of Price Subsidies

Price subsidies have been largely absent in the UK’s approach to controlling inflation. In stark contrast, France instituted energy price caps until prices fell in the spring, effectively suppressing a surge in consumer bills. Germany introduced a €49 monthly public transport ticket, a move that led to a slight reduction in inflation.

The Road Ahead

The soaring inflation rate has prompted the BoE to contemplate a series of interest rate hikes, positioning it as a primary tool for inflation control. The markets are speculating a 40% chance of an interest rate increase by half a percentage point to 5%, a strategic move designed to stifle inflation.

Simultaneously, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has placed inflation control at the top of his agenda, particularly in view of the upcoming general election. However, with economic complexities intertwining and no quick fixes in sight, reining in the UK’s inflation rate remains a considerable challenge.

The UK’s higher inflation rate than other major economies can be traced to its unique economic and socio-political circumstances. The after-effects of Brexit, recovery from Covid-19, labour market challenges, and the nation’s high dependency on food imports have collectively driven inflation. Consequently, both the government and the BoE have their work cut out to manage these complex forces and steer the inflation rate towards more manageable levels.