Which way now for the economy?

8 08 2009

ECONOMYBALLS

This isn’t a complaint. It’s just a simple comment.

Anyone who reads the business pages here will know about knowledge economy and the need to promote NI jobs higher up the value add chain etc. There was a big report on all that stuff from Matrix last year.

So how will present circumstances affect that? What will emerge from the wreckage of the recession? Will the recession provide a short interruption in service to an otherwise soaring arc of progress towards knowledge creation?

Or perhaps the complexion of the economy will now change irrevocably? Perhaps the recession will have shattered the drive to innovation? Perhaps the shock will see NI go back to the old ways – the service sector jobs?

The following two stories today illustrate the tussle:

Long have we heard the mantra about knowledge-based economy and moving up the value add chain. That is the aspiration, and it is an estimable goal to work towards. But today we lost a lot of jobs in the value add chain but gained a similar number in the more transient, impermanent service sector. (I accept these are not pure examples of each, but they can each be taken to represent their industry for the moment.)

I’m not for one minute suggesting that the Teletech investment is a bad thing. The job creation is great. But what do we build from this investment? What knowledge is accrued through these jobs? If Teletech moves off-shore next year, what is retained by this economy? What sticky knowledge do you get from call centres?

If Northern Ireland was considered a culturally risk averse and ‘investment poor’ nation, then how much more risk averse and cautious will we be as a result of this recession? Is wipeout in value add to be followed by a return of unstable services jobs?

Or in other words, are these two isolated headlines the sign of things to come? Are value add jobs going, only to be replaced by services jobs? I wonder is there a trend developing? Is it avoidable?

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