NI most improved in regional competitiveness

A Press Association report on the UTV website spots some apparent good news for the oft-maligned Northern Ireland economy – “According to the UK Competitiveness Index – an annual measure of the competitiveness of different regions and locations in the nation – Northern Ireland tops the list of regions that have gained most in competitiveness since last year, improving by 4.4% overall.” It’s not all rosy, NI is still listed as 10th most competitive region out of 12, only Wales and the North East are rated lower.. but some of the indicators show potential promise. Updated belowFrom the press release

And in a striking turn-around, the traditionally least competitive regions of Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, Wales and the north east have made the biggest improvements. Northern Ireland tops the list of regions that have increased their competitiveness (4.4% up on the 2005 index score), followed by Yorkshire (4.2%), Wales and the north east (both up 3.7%) and Scotland (3.4%).

And from the PA report

The index shows Northern Ireland has successfully improved its performance in such areas as skills and education. The proportion of people in the region with NVQ level Four or above (23%) has risen by 3.2%. Similarly Northern Ireland had the best GCSE performance in the UK (59.5%) with five or more grade A* to C against the UK average of 54%.

Additionally it had sharply boosted its research and development expenditure by higher education institutions – up by 26.5%. It also saw a sharp rise in its level of self-employed, the rate leaping from 12.5% to 15.1%.

Nevertheless significant problems remain, innovation levels are very low compared with other regions as are the level of business expenditure on research and development, business start ups and business survival rates.

But on the upside unemployment fell sharply by 13% during the past year giving Northern Ireland a rate below the UK average – 4.7% against 5%.

Ian Brinkley, director of The Work Foundation`s knowledge economy programme, said: “Overall, there are very positive signs here that the gap in regional economic performance is starting to close and regional policy decisions are beginning to pay dividends.

“Yet a little caution is needed because the index reflects only one year`s data.”

The Competitiveness Index claims to be a more sophisticated and subtle instrument for measuring competitiveness than standard measures such as gross domestic product per head.

It blends what it calls `input factors` such as R&D spend and business start up rates, with `output factors` such as exports and productivity and `outcome factors` such as gross weekly pay and unemployment rates.

The index is published jointly by Robert Huggins Associates, a research organisation and The Work Foundation who have been tracking data since 1997.

The report costs £50 and can be downloaded here

Update The BBC report has the list in order

UK COMPETITIVE INDEX*

1 London (1)
2 South East (2)
3 Eastern England (3)
4 East Midlands (4)
5 South West (5)
6 Scotland (8)
7 West Midlands(6)
8 North West (7)
9 Yorkshire & The Humber (9)
10 Northern Ireland (10)
11 Wales (11)
12 North East (12)

*Source – UK Competitive Index 2006; 2005 ranking in brackets

  • kensei

    I’m completely unconvinced by “competitiveness” rating. They can be done to show roughly anything you like, which is normally furthering a right wing or extremely pro-business agenda.

    What matters is economic output – GDP, growth rate, employment etc, and how they relate to the overall goals of the state.

  • willowfield

    how they relate to the overall goals of the state.

    ????????????????

  • Billy

    10th out of 12 – a real achievement.

    The main components of this “improvement” seem to be education and unemployment.

    Eductaion has always been of a higher standard here than in England. It is good to see this is actually improving. However, given that many of these qualified young people will take their talents outside NI, it’s a bit of a pyrrhic victory.

    Unemployment figures – these will be directly influenced by the massive percentage of employment in NI that is provided directly by the public sector.

    The bottom line is that NI is kept afloat by UK govt (and EU) handouts. If it were a business, it would have been in a bankruptcy court long ago.

  • willowfield

    Everywhere is “kept afloat” by public spending. Public spending is a key economic driver throughout the world.

  • kensei

    “how they relate to the overall goals of the state.”

    Well, Sweden or France may be bale to push up their growth rate by dismantling their welfare provisions. Or the UK could cut it’s national debt by abolishing the NHS.

    But maybe those countries and their citzen’s don’t want to do that and incur all sorts of social side effects that might not show up as readily in the economic data. See?

  • George

    It could be good news and a real sign of positive things to come.

    It could also be because (as was and is often said about the Irish Republic) that “it’s starting from a low base”.

    Or more worringly, it could be that the real drivers of the British economy, London and the South East, are losing competitiveness and dropping closer to the level of the less productive regions.

    After all, this survey shows that the London, South-East and East regions all saw their economic capacity slide.

  • Billy

    Willowfield

    In excess of 70% of NI Income is generated by the public sector – that is NOT a normal economic factor.

    The UK govt spent many years propping up H+W, Shorts etc with grants before they eventually pulled out.

    It is inevitable that the economic situation would begin to improve to some degree here with the more peaceful situation.

    However, there are posters on this site (to be fair, I don’t know if you’re one of them) who spout crap like “the sky is the limit for NI” and really believe that it is feasible for NI to become a real economic success.

    That won’t happen because this place won’t be politically stable for a very long time and the UK govt is obviously looking to disengage.

  • Pete Baker

    Billy

    While political stability does have a major part to play in the economic success of any region, the argument that “it won’t happen” in NI is the arggument of those fire-bombing furniture stores – In other words it’s an ideological argument, not a factual argument.

    Meanwhile what the UK Competitive Index tells us, on the good news front, is that as well as the education and unemployment success..

    Additionally it[NI] had sharply boosted its research and development expenditure by higher education institutions – up by 26.5%. It also saw a sharp rise in its level of self-employed, the rate leaping from 12.5% to 15.1%.

    Those indicators suggest, nothing more than that, that some of the right moves are being made to make the region more successful.

    The GDP per capita, in contrast, is a blunt instrument by which to judge success.

  • Brian Boru

    “But on the upside unemployment fell sharply by 13% during the past year giving Northern Ireland a rate below the UK average – 4.7% against 5%.”

    Largely public-sector employment though. Only in a more free-market NI can the gap in incomes between North and South be closed somewhat. Having said that especially with an uncompetitive corporation-tax regime I would never expect it to be completely closed. You make your bed you lie in it.

  • kensei

    “In other words it’s an ideological argument, not a factual argument.”

    I don’t believe so. There are plenty of sound economic and social reasons to believe that we will continue to be a basket case. There is room for improvement, certainly, and probably some quick wins, but it is nonsense to suggest “the sky is the limit”. We have no control over fiscal policy, which will be increasingly run for the SE of England. There are competitors in eastern Europe and other places that weren’t really there when the Republic started it’s growth, and the economy to our South will continue to suck money. We are incredibly dependent on public funds. We haven’t enough university places to retain (or indeed attract in), all our smart young people, and we don’t keep all those that do stay [post graduation. We’re hideously divided, and that impacts on any number of factors. None of that means we can’t be successful. It’s just that statements like “the sky’s the limit” are patently untrue that this point.

    Another excellent point made on Newsnight Scotland last night – we’re competing against the rest of the World, not the Midlands.

  • DK

    This just confirms what anyone looking out of their window will have noticed. NI is improving, despite the fervent hopes of the “failed statelet” naysayers. And it is also experiencing immigration and property booms to go alongside the other growth.

    There is a large public sector because so much is done locally rather than centralised in Leeds or wherever (e.g. driving licences & tax). Surely cutting the public sector would be best done by centralising these jobs across the water, which would enhance the union if anything.

  • Globetrotter

    “There is a large public sector because so much is done locally rather than centralised in Leeds or wherever (e.g. driving licences & tax). Surely cutting the public sector would be best done by centralising these jobs across the water, which would enhance the union if anything”.

    Where do you propose to find jobs for the people that you have just made redundant? With the public sector being easily the largest single employer, centralising services would be disastrous for the local “economy”, more evidence that the place is indeed an economic basket case.

  • mnob

    Maybe one of the things holding back the economy are the number of people who are quite happy to take joy and glee in pointing out the challenges on the way and who appear to want nothing more than us to slip into the middle ages just so they can shout ‘failed political entity’.

  • willowfield

    BILLY

    In excess of 70% of NI Income is generated by the public sector – that is NOT a normal economic factor.

    Evidence?

    What percentage of, say, the North of England’s “income” is “generated by the public sector”? Or Scotland’s? Or Wales’?

    What percentage of Connaght’s or Munster’s “income” is “generated by the public sector”?

    The UK govt spent many years propping up H+W, Shorts etc with grants before they eventually pulled out.

    The UK govt did the same with industries right across the UK. NI was no different, except that our economy was being destroyed by terrorists.

  • willowfield

    Hello?

  • kensei

    “Evidence?”

    Do a search for it in here. there have been multiple threads on this.

  • willowfield

    What percentage of, say, the North of England’s “income” is “generated by the public sector”? Or Scotland’s? Or Wales’?

    What percentage of Connaght’s or Munster’s “income” is “generated by the public sector”?

  • DK

    “Where do you propose to find jobs for the people that you have just made redundant?”

    Unemployment is very low at the moment and there is lots of immigration, so there must be some room. Anyway, it’s unlikely to happen, so we’ll just have to get used to a lot of public jobs & a lot of immigrants to cover the excess.

  • PubMan

    What percentage of Connaght’s or Munster’s “income” is “generated by the public sector”?

    Not a lot. That is why a decentralisation/regionalisation plan was recently introduced. Most public sector jobs remain in Dublin while the private sector expands out into regional cities and hinterlands.

    The 26 county government is still trying to get peripheral status by admitting the Celtic Tiger hasn’t benefited all peripheral areas.

    Britain and the northern Unionists could do with admitting the problem and addressing it rather than comparing themselves to the wildest areas of Connemara.

    If you are saying you are happy to be the british version of the wildest outpost of Ireland fine, not much ambition but honest.

    Is that your aim? But even southern areas not benefiting from the east/south coast boom don’t look to the public sector to provide improvements in life, they want a bite of the cherry too.

    It really is a spongers economy up north. Seems institutionalised, you don’t realise it’s not what a productive economy aspires too?

  • PubMan

    Republic’s pay levels outstrip the north

    By Gary McDonald Business Editor

    THERE are dramatic differences in wage levels between Northern Ireland and the Republic, a new report has found.

    In some cases the wages for financial directors, accountants and payroll clerks in the south are double those in the north for people doing broadly similar jobs.

    It is claimed that higher salaries, – in the financial sector in particular – are attracting skilled workers from the north to move to the Republic.

    But number-crunchers still remain at odds as to whether employees’ cash goes further in Dublin or Belfast.

    Research by Financial Directions, which specialises in recruitment for the financial sector, claims that employees in every area of the industry, from junior to senior level, end up with more in their pocket at the end of each month in the Republic than their northern counterparts.

    That, they insist, is after taking the currency exchange rate and the higher cost of living in the Republic into account.

    The survey said that in 2005 an accountant in Belfast could be earning £20,000 to £30,000 (E30,000 to E45,000), whereas someone holding the same post with the same qualifications in the Dublin area could command the equivalent of £34,000 to £40,000 (E50,000 to E60,000).

    In other finance-related jobs, a payroll clerk in the south could earn double the pay offered in the north, insists George McCormack, managing director of Financial Directions.

    “This significant difference in salaries between the two regions is gradually leading to more people from Northern Ireland seeking posts in Dublin, where the market continues to show an insatiable appetite for newly-qualified accountants,’’ he said.

    But one Belfast-based accountant cast doubt on the figures. “The cost of living in Dublin is obscene compared with Belfast.

    “Average house prices are E540,000 versus £165,000, while it is vastly more expensive to buy a car and to pay for education, medical care and for income tax.

    “So despite what this salary comparator might indicate, I guarantee I have a higher disposable income at the end of every month than my friends in the profession in Dublin, even though their pay cheque is bigger than mine.’’

    General salaries in Northern Ireland remain lower than in Britain as well as the Republic but the gap is closing.

    The latest Survey of Hours and Earnings shows that in the year to April 2006, gross weekly earnings for full-time employees in the northgrew by 5.2 per cent to £405.20 compared with growth of 3.7 per cent to £447.10 a week for the UK as a whole.

    Yesterday’s findings coincided with renewed calls for corporation tax in the north to be reduced from 30 per cent to the same 12.5 per cent rate as in the Republic.

  • PubMan

    For a start the average national house price in Ireland is actually around £210,000 (E310K) but why ignore the one ‘Belfast-based accountant (who) cast doubt on the figures’ has said the average house rice in the north is £165,500 (as if, what a bullshitter).

    He is comparing central dublin figures with a well out of date entire northern average. What a bullshitter. Why did he not put his name to it? Because it is crap?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “But maybe those countries and their citzen’s don’t want to do that and incur all sorts of social side effects that might not show up as readily in the economic data. See? ”

    So, rather than take moves that would correct the problem, ignoring the strawmen you’ve set up, you would recommend not changing those policies which are going to lead to economic implosion — just keep on keeping on. Kensei, no matter how hard you re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, it still sinks. Likewise, looking at the socialism for a moment, it works for a couple generations, right up until the “free rider” issue rears its ugly head, as it is now. Until and unless you can correct that defect in human nature, socialism, as a long term political system, is doomed to failure. Even in the Scandanavian states, its going to fall apart — admittedly, they had to import many of their free-riders, but the net effect will still be the same – an unproductive class that sponges off of the system.

  • Dk

    “It is claimed that higher salaries, – in the financial sector in particular – are attracting skilled workers from the north to move to the Republic”.

    Well this is crap as the biggest and best paying financial institutions operate on both sides of the border (Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, AIB-First Trust, NIB-Northern). I work in one of them and people are paid the same in both areas and we travel back and forth across the border fairly often.

  • Crataegus

    “It is claimed that higher salaries, – in the financial sector in particular – are attracting skilled workers from the north to move to the Republic”.

    No if anywhere the drain is to London. Dublin is decidely 3rd or 4th division when it comes to the financial sector and services.

  • kensei

    “So, rather than take moves that would correct the problem, ignoring the strawmen you’ve set up, you would recommend not changing those policies which are going to lead to economic implosion—just keep on keeping on.”

    Yeah, because that’s exactly what I said. I did not suggest ignoring serious problems. What I said was, there is a trade off to be had and that is to be decided by a country and their citizen’s – what type of state do they want?

    Most Nordic countries have high taxes and strong social provision, and less gap between rich and poor. It works for them. They may derive some benefit in absolute GDP or growth figures if they cut taxes dramatically and scaled back their welfare state. But that might result in a more unequal distribution of wealth, with more social problems. It may not be the type of country they want to live in. That is an entirely fair consideration.

    Obviously, it’s not a principle that stretches to taking in the impossible, because that would be a straw man.

    “Kensei, no matter how hard you re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, it still sinks.”

    Sure, but people are entitled to decide what type of ship they want to build. There is more than one way to make one that floats.

    “Likewise, looking at the socialism for a moment, it works for a couple generations, right up until the “free rider” issue rears its ugly head, as it is now. Until and unless you can correct that defect in human nature, socialism, as a long term political system, is doomed to failure. Even in the Scandanavian states, its going to fall apart—admittedly, they had to import many of their free-riders, but the net effect will still be the same – an unproductive class that sponges off of the system.”

    This is assertion totally without evidence. One could argue that Capitalism will eat itself, and that another 1930’s still depression is inevitable because we are following a lot of the policies that led us there. There is more than one defect in the human condition.

    And it’s Social democracy, not Socialism – the system is still fundamentally Capitalist.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Kensei: “Most Nordic countries have high taxes and strong social provision, and less gap between rich and poor. It works for them. They may derive some benefit in absolute GDP or growth figures if they cut taxes dramatically and scaled back their welfare state. But that might result in a more unequal distribution of wealth, with more social problems. It may not be the type of country they want to live in. That is an entirely fair consideration. ”

    They were also, until most recently, very homogenous populations — almost uniformly highly educated, highly motivated and possessing, shall we say, a healthy Protestant work ethic. With the increased socialization of their states, this has been changing, a fact exacerbated by liberal immigration laws. The decreasing “likeness” of the population is slowly eating into the fabric of their society. There are those who produce nothing yet accept the benefits the state offers. Sweden is in particularly dire straits, with Muslim immigrants going so far as to carve out “no-go” areas where police and fire personnel are afraid to go. Either the system will change to correct the defects that allow the problems or, ultimately, it will fail.

  • willowfield

    PUBMAN

    “What percentage of Connaght’s or Munster’s “income” is “generated by the public sector”?”

    Not a lot.

    How do you know? What are the figures?

    That is why a decentralisation/regionalisation plan was recently introduced. Most public sector jobs remain in Dublin while the private sector expands out into regional cities and hinterlands.

    So, while complaining about the public sector of peripheral UK regions, the South is actually copying the UK by expanding into its own peripheral regions!

    The 26 county government is still trying to get peripheral status by admitting the Celtic Tiger hasn’t benefited all peripheral areas.

    So, while complaining about NI having peripheral status, the South is acknowledging that it has its own peripheral regions!

    Britain and the northern Unionists could do with admitting the problem and addressing it rather than comparing themselves to the wildest areas of Connemara.

    I’m unaware of anyone, unionist or otherwise, who hasn’t “admitted” the problem.

    If you are saying you are happy to be the british version of the wildest outpost of Ireland fine, not much ambition but honest.

    When did I say that?

    Is that your aim?

    No.

    But even southern areas not benefiting from the east/south coast boom don’t look to the public sector to provide improvements in life, they want a bite of the cherry too.

    You’re contradicting yourself. You just said they were planning to expand the public sector into peripheral areas!

    It really is a spongers [sic] economy up north.

    And the South is trying to copy it for its peripheral regions!

    Seems institutionalised, you don’t realise it’s not what a productive economy aspires too [sic]?

    If it is institutionalised it seems strange that there is a consensus that the economy needs to be improved through private investment! Seems like the opposite to me.

    Interesting, though, that the South’s peripheral regions apparently aspire to that which you mock (i.e. public sector investment).