Good news; bad news…

Not sure if this was a studied announcement, but it seems whilst Nigel Dodds is giving us the good news that there is more employment than ever: “the latest claimant count stands at 25,400, down 2,900 over the year… the unemployment rate is the second lowest among UK regions”. But Reg Empey has to report that literacy levels in Northern Ireland mean that a quarter of the potential workforce cannot read or write properly.

“The economic loss to our community by having such a huge slice of the population incapable of such basic functions, it is in my opinion a form of disability,” the minister said. “We already suffer in Northern Ireland from the lowest participation rates in the economy in this island, I believe this is merely adding to our economic loss.”

Although Nigel hardly demurs from Reg’s take, he puts it in a wider context…

It is important for all businesses here, regardless of size or sector, to recognise this and embrace innovation to increase their competitiveness in an increasingly challenging global marketplace. In short, I firmly believe that innovation means better products and services, more efficient processes and potentially increased sales and exports. In addition, it can lead to a better skilled workforce and higher paid jobs.

In other words, a rising tide lifts all boats (a term that likely arose in conjunction with measures to improve overseas trade)… Now about that public sector share of the local job pool…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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