Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The Myth of New businesses, New jobs

I guess I too have been guilty of manipulating statistics in my role as an analyst, but the main culprit always sees to be the Govt.

Can I ask you to consider the following statements?
- The rate of business start ups has decreased since Labour came to power in 1997 from 3.2 per 1000 people to 3.0
- The total number of businesses operating in the UK has increased by 600,000 to 4.3m under Labour.
- 1,288,745 young people in the UK between 16 and 24 are not in employment, education or training. An increase of 15% since Labour came to power to 1997
- The Govt has helped 700,000 people aged 18-24 back into work since 1997
- Employment in the UK increased by 93,000 in the three months to May to 29.08 million, the biggest total since records began in 1971.

The first reaction is to say that they are contradictory. But in fact all of them are "true" in their own way.

Business start ups are down but those businesses have had a better survival rate leading to the increased numbers. Is that good? Or is it showing that "entrepreneurship" is declining in the UK? I think we need to encourage more people to setup businesses, hence my interest in the Prince's Trust Business Programme.

As Chairman of the Prince's Trust Technology Leadership Group, I am also well aware of the problems that youth unemployment is creating. Unemployed youngsters are 20 times more likely to commit a crime and unemployed young women are 22 times more likely to be single mothers. And the numbers of young people not in employment, education or training just keep rising. Indeed the UK has the highest rate in Europe.

But the numbers in jobs, even in that age bracket, continues to increase! The problem is that the number of totally unskilled skilled jobs in the UK has declined greatly and those that still exist tend to go to immigrants. Digby Jones recently told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee "We have always had this huge tail of unskilled people but, of course, we used to do something with them, it was not so prevalent in our society, it was not so much 'in your face' or on your radar screen because we used to send them down the pit, we used to put them in the fields, we used to put them in car factories, shipyards, steelworks, cotton and textile mills.
There were loads of jobs for people in this country who could not read, write or count. China has had your lunch and India has had your dinner and they are not there anymore.”

As Digby says most of these kind of jobs have either gone to China or India or have been automated. Many of those that remain in the UK are being taken by immigrants. (That's not any kind of racist comment either. Just go visit any seasonal agricultural activity right now and you will find few English youngsters bent double in the fields. A few years ago, in our place in the Lakes, all the people serving in the local restaurants and shops over the summer were local young people or students - now it seems they are all Poles)

Of course, what we need are more trained young people to do the jobs that not only still remain in the UK but where the UK is doing really well. But solving the education problem in the UK seems to have defeated most administrations in my lifetime. So we are left with a huge and increasing youth unemployment problem with equally huge knock on consequences for the whole of society.

I guess that is the real reason why I dedicate so much of my time to the Prince's Trust - one of the few organisations that seems to "make a real difference" in this area.

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