Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Unskilled Meddling

The government has published its 'vision for the future' of skills training. It reckons we need to 'invest' a load more because:

'The UK faces a major challenge in ensuring our workforce is equipped with the skills needed to compete in a global marketplace on the basis of high value-added goods and services. Currently countries such as India and China can compete on the basis of lower labour costs. But with around 20 million graduates in China and 2 million new graduates each year in India, those countries are increasingly competing not just on cost, but on expertise.'

As usual, it's impossible to fathom out exactly- or even roughly- how much they actually intend to spend because they spray around all kinds of apples and pears numbers. £1.5 billion, £20 million annually for two years, £1 billion, £1.5 million, £3 million...it could be any or all of those- who knows?

But we do know it's more than we taxpayers ought to be 'investing.'

Because Labour is forever justifying its useless skills programmes on the basis of competitive threats from abroad.

Until recently it was the US, France and Germany. They were reckoned to have much higher skills levels than us, and we needed more public spending and government tinkering.

The problem with this was that once somebody did some proper analysis (see for example this NIESR paper) we found out that the so-called 'skills gap' didn't add up to much- maybe 2-3 per cent of output, well within the margin of error. What's more, the apparent productivity lead once enjoyed by France and Germany seems to be fast evaporating in the post-Euro malaise.
So our rulers have reverted to more generalised arm-waving about the yellow/brown peril out east. I guess it's that vision thing.

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