What an asinine and ill-informed comment by Jeremy Hunt.

The real issue it that the UK economy is shockingly unproductive, and its problem is not a slothful workforce but a poorly educated, trained and commonly badly managed one with too little capital equipment at its elbow.

In short, work ‘smarter’ not ‘harder’ – otherwise the UK will become a low wage, slow growth economy.

The Chinese fully acknowledge this as they drive to upgrade their economy and invest heavily in robots and precision equipment instead of throwing no longer cheap Chinese labour -relative, that is, to Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar – at the problem.

Besides, much of the Chinese ‘hard work’ has gone into building ‘ghost cities’, unused airports and vast, cavernous malls – an epic misallocation of capital.

And half at least of the individual wages thus generated had to be saved, and still do, as China offers nothing in the way of a welfare state. The Chinese live to work to save for a ‘rainy day.’

China’s big challenge is to get its workers to work smarter and consume more, much more, if it is to achieve the big reset of becoming a largely consumer-based, middle income economy.

Meanwhile, here’s some perspective for Mr Hunt and his fellow cabinet ministers.

However hard the average British worker works about 20% of his or her time is wasted compared to peers in Germany and France and 10% compared to peers in Italy even.

The UK economy is a fifth less productive than Germany or France for instance and 10% less productive than Italy in terms of production per worker. And it’s a shocking 40% less productive than the US. The whole economy output per hour is worse than  15% lower than its pre-crisis level in 2007.

A microcosm of a fundamental UK problem is that BMW can’t find qualified operators for the machinery at its Oxford plant.

Multiply that out and we find a shallow, poorly educated and inadequately trained pool of skilled labour in the UK compared, for instance, to Germany where there’s a deep and broad skills resource based on a strong apprentice-based culture.

Note: But will the German system be undermined by over a million Syrian, Afghan and Yemeni migrants.

And the UK  small and midsized enterprise <SME> sector, which employs the bulk of the labour force – over 9 million people – and is the real engine room of the economy, comes out badly compared to the famous German Mittelstand.

Small and mid-sized family owned, but professionally managed Mittelstand companies lead the world in such businesses as pencil making. They account for 50% of German GDP and export half their wares.

The UK by contrast has a plethora of family owned, incompetently run businesses more concerned to simply do enough to serve a local customer base rather than become world beating.

So Hunt and colleagues should look at the issue of myopic and complacent UK business management all too often under-investing in plant, equipment and staff development, and a dysfunctional , skewed, overdraft-based banking system failing to provide in any case the kind of services SMEs need to expand rather than merely tread water or stay alive.

Ironically, given the earlier comments about China, cheap immigrant and senior citizen labour has enabled far too many UK companies to go for a short-term, low cost labour solution, rather than face the capital cost of re-equipping themselves, employing proper recruitment policies and on staff development.

Plenty for Hunt and colleagues to chew over rather than making socially disruptive and inaccurate comments.