Friday, 15 November 2013

Moveable workforces are a thing of the past.

In the now distant past, when employment in one area declined or ceased altogether, workers could often move to another area where opportunities were in the rise. I’m sure it was far from easy but it was possible. Housing demand back then would produce housing; sometimes this would be cheap, often inadequate - in line with the standard of workers’ housing at the time - but that doesn't happen anymore.

The idea, as vaguely suggested by Ed Davey (most things he says are vague) on Question Time, that up to 1,000 workers from Portsmouth’s ship yards could move to another area for work is ludicrous.

These days, housing demand is not being met. School places in many areas are limited. Selling your home in an area in decline will be difficult and buying or renting in an area with more work opportunities could be harder still when house and rent prices can vary massively. Most couples are both in work; would the moving workers’ partners be able to move to another job too?

It’s just not possible in the 21st century to have large numbers of workers relocating. And what happens to the area they leave? If there’s no other work taking the place of that which is lost, we see certain decline and once an area has lost its way, it can stay lost for a long time.

Yet again, the coalition's responses put all of the problems on the public rather than consider consequences and areas that require intervention and act. They do not consider the feasibility of their 'ideas'.

The UK has been losing industries to cheaper foreign alternatives for decades. But with a fraction of the sort of investment governments are willing to put into the financial sector or other large privately-dominated sectors (be it through bail-outs, tax breaks or subsidies), industries could be saved and even helped to grow.

It's easy to accept that labour is cheaper abroad but look at our wealthy European cometition: the car manufacturing industry in Germany, for example, continues to thrive. Why can't we do it here? The government could invest in our shipyards and help them to produce not just miltary vessels, but cruise liners, container vessels and all of the other smaller boats needed when using large ships. If German manufacturing can be competitive then so can ours.

But the government would rather see docklands turned into fancy flats for overseas investors to snap up and rent out. Although where they think the rent money will come from in these declining areas, I don't know.

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