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.
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