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Measures of public service output (about one fifth of total output of the whole economy) and productivity are important for public accountability. Taxpayers, users and providers of public services have an interest in how money is spent on these services, and how they relate to public service output.


Expenditure on Healthcare in the UK
Department: Office for National Statistics
Estimates of healthcare expenditure in the UK to the definitions contained in the System of Health Accounts (SHA, OECD 2000)
Public Sector Productivity Estimates: Education
Department: Office for National Statistics
Updated output, inputs and productivity estimates for public service education in the UK.
Public Sector Productivity Estimates: Healthcare
Department: Office for National Statistics
Productivity growth The latest estimates of change in the volume of Healthcare inputs The latest estimates of change in the volume of Healthcare output, and impact of quality adjustment
Public Service Productivity
Department: Office for National Statistics
Output, Input, quality and productivity data for public services.
Quality Adjustment for Public Service Education
Department: Office for National Statistics
Presentation and discussion of a range of alternative methods of quality adjustment for publically provided education Look at measures based on inspection results, pupil-teacher ratios, threshold attainment levels and a value-added attainment model Consider how these alternatives compare to the current quality adjustment method, and identify areas of further research

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The UK Centre for the Measurement of Government Activity (UKCeMGA) was set up within the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It contributes to the accountability of government by providing statistics and analysis about change over time in the output, inputs and productivity of government-funded services.

UKCeMGA also works closely with other government departments and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to develop and publish statistics on the output and productivity of publicly funded services. Some of these statistics are incorporated in the ONS statistics of gross domestic product (GDP).

UKCeMGA has published papers on the productivity of public funding in the following areas:

  • Health care

  • Education

  • Total Public Service Productivity

There are also associated papers discussing extensions of the work in, for example, health care and quantity of output in Children’s Social Care.

Other government departments also publish measures of the output and productivity of the services they provide.

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Technical Data

Productivity is defined as the ratio of outputs to inputs. It measures the rate at which inputs are turned into outputs.


Inputs are labour, procurement and capital. 

Sometimes the volume of inputs is calculated directly as, for example, the number of employees. But sometimes there are only data for the value of spending on the input, so volume is calculated by dividing this figure by an appropriate index of prices.


Government output is usually provided to service users free at the point of delivery and not through a market. The fact that there is no market price means that the usual method of valuing output is not possible.

The traditional approach to measuring government activity was to assume that the output of the non-market government sector was equal to whatever was spent by government and public authorities. This is the so-called <output = inputs> convention. This assumed that there was no change in productivity with which public services were delivered. 

The UN System of National Account, which was adopted in 1993 (SNA1993), moved away from the <output = inputs> convention. This was in favour of direct measurement of the output of government and public services. 

The same change was reflected in the European System of Accounts circulated in 1995 (ESA95), which applies to all EU countries. This was further endorsed by the Atkinson Review of the Measurement of Government Output and Productivity for the National Accounts (January 2005). Output is calculated directly where possible, using measures of activities, such as hip or knee replacements, added together by cost.

The Atkinson Review also recommended that measures of the output of public services should take account of changes in quality of the services. In the market sector, measures of output are generally put together from measures of the volume of different types of product or service and their price. The price differences between goods of different quality reflect the value consumers of the product, or service, place on the differences in quality.

Atkinson Review

In the absence of final consumer prices for different types of non-market output, other ways need to be found to reflect the quality of the output. Work on public service productivity analysis is particularly focused on aspects of quality of service that may change over time, and techniques for incorporating measures of quality.

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  • Activity

    An economic activity is said to take place when resources such as equipment, labour, manufacturing techniques, information networks or products are combined. This leads to the creation of specific goods or services. An economic activity is characterised by an input of products (goods or services), a production process and an output of products.

  • Capital

    Capital assets are those which contribute to the productive process over periods longer than a year. They include equipment and structures, such as buildings.

  • Deflator

    A price index used to produce a set of volume measures from a set of current values. For example, by taking account of pay and price changes.

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

    A measure of the total output of the whole economy.

  • Input

    The human and financial resources involved in the running of a public service.

  • Labour

    The people employed or otherwise contracted to work.

  • Output

    The goods and services produced by a public service.

  • Procurement

    Acquiring goods and services for use as inputs into the production process.

  • Productivity

    Defined as the ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input.

  • Public Services

    Services provided by government to its citizens, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing private provision of services.

  • Volume

    Amount of input or output after changes in prices or costs have been removed.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Mike G Phelps

Email: mike.g.phelps@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 456380

UK Centre for the Measurement of Government Activity Office for National Statistics Government Buildings Cardiff Road Newport NP10 8XG

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