The Bank of England’s Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent has apologised for “offence caused” by his description of the UK economy as “menopausal” and past its peak.
One of Britain’s most senior economists, Mr Broadbent told the Telegraph in an interview that slow productivity growth in the UK right now resembles a period of weakness in the late 19th century, called by economists a “climacteric” time - which he said translated as “menopausal, but applies to both genders.”
He said it is used to mean “you’ve passed your peak”.
But his comments provoked a furious response with critics arguing that the description is both sexist and ageist, and implies that women become less productive during or after the menopause.
Former Bank of England policymaker Kate Barker said his words were "pretty offensive".
As reported I found them pretty offensive https://t.co/Z7tRmNf7KX— Kate Barker (@Barker4Kate) May 16, 2018
Claire Perry, minister for energy and clean growth, also objected .
“I can’t be the only 50+ woman objecting to Ben Broadbent’s pejorative description of the UK economy as ‘menopausal’,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I’ve never been more productive! How about ‘andropausal’ instead? Then you get declining potency and bonus grumpiness thrown in!”
I can’t be the only 50+ woman objecting to Ben Broadbent’s pejorative description of the U.K. economy as ‘menopausal’. I’ve never been more productive! How about ‘andropausal’ instead? Then you get declining potency and bonus grumpiness thrown in! https://t.co/DGFwmsRTDm— Claire Perry (@claireperrymp) May 16, 2018
Robert Peston, the ITV presenter, called Mr Broadbent’s words “sloppy, empirically unsound and potentially offensive”.
Mr Broadbent, who is thought to be a potential candidate to replace Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank when he steps down next year, said he meant the word in a strictly economic sense.
Sloppy, empirically unsound and potentially offensive use of language by Bank of England deputy governor. There is no reason to think menopausal people are less productive or past their peak in any sense other than the bleedin’ obvious one https://t.co/g7pplOyNHi— Robert Peston (@Peston) May 15, 2018
“I’m sorry for my poor choice of language in an interview with the Telegraph yesterday and regret the offence caused,” he said.
“I was explaining the meaning of the word ‘climacteric’, a term used by economic historians to describe a period of low productivity growth during the nineteenth century. Economic productivity is something which affects every one of us, of all ages and genders.”
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for the Bank of England, which has been trying to boost the number of women working in Threadneedle Street, particularly at senior levels.