Yesterday’s announcement of 400 jobs in Belfast by the NYSE, and today’s announcement of 100 jobs in Derry by Firstsource stand in marked contrast to the litany of closures in the Republic of Ireland. What’s going on? Most southern economists look on the North as a low wage, low skilled economic zone. During the boom years there was some truth in this (though it was all relative: too many jobs in the South were of the high wage, low skill variety). But now there appears to be an interesting change on the horizon, partly driven by a weakening Sterling, and partly by the continued of InvestNI on the call centre and IT sectors. And generous grants help too of course.
No doubt all this reads like a zero-sum game: the South gains, the North loses. The North gains, the South loses. A way of behaving that is neither optimal nor sustainable. Whose to blame? Everyone and no one. But too often it appears that policy makers on both sides of the border operate as if each part of the island was, in fact, an ‘island’. Take the recent Global Irish Economic Forum. Read the Report and Annex IV: Northern Ireland isn’t even mentioned once. I kid you not.
Of course, if hundreds and even thousands of young men and women end up moving north to earn a living then that type of thinking might change. Everyone breath in … and hold your breath.