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VTHE ECONOMY AOverview In the 19th century Britain had the worlds leading economy Its overseas trade thrived its standard of living rose steadily and its citizens pioneered industrial innovations With the growth of the economies of other nations in the 20th century the British economy remained relatively strong It has continued to grow and Britain remains a major producer of industrial goods and provider of services as well as a center of world trade and finance In the 20th century Britons saw their per capita disposable income triple an accomplishment all the more remarkable considering Britains size and limited natural resources The skills and ingenuity of Britains highly trained workers managers and entrepreneurs have enabled the British economy to function well and provide for its large population Although Britains economy was strong in the 20th century it faced a number of persistent problems The balance of trade was one Britain has had to import more than a tenth of its food and much of its raw materials as well as many manufactured goods and it has to export sufficient products and services to balance the cost of its imports Another problem has been industrial inefficiency which was particularly evident in older industries such as coal mining shipbuilding and textiles which produced more products than they could sell Some industries that had been nationalized taken over by the state after 1945 such as British Oil Corporation British Airways and British Telecommunications were unprofitable and operated at a considerable cost to taxpayers In addition trade unions sometimes required companies to hire more workers than were needed and time was lost due to strikes as workers pressed for higher wages These trade union problems increased the cost of goods which helped cause inflation Inflation occurs when the demand for products is higher than the supply which leads to an increase in the value and price of products At the same time unemployment remained high11 percent of the workforce
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