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Skills Envoy Warns UK Could be Eclipsed in a ‘Few Years’


Skills envoy Sir Digby Jones warned that the UK could loose out to emerging economies unless it adapts to the challenge of global competition and adopts smarter working practices.

Speaking at the Work Wise UK Summit the former director-general of the CBI said: “Let’s be clear about this, the economies of countries such as China and India are expanding at a massive pace, and will eclipse the established economies in the West within a matter of a few years unless we act now. Just look at the impact the Industrial Revolution had on the world and the prosperity of this country when we innovated and embraced new technologies and working practices in the 19th century.

“A successful economy is one that is prosperous and dynamic. One that moves and changes as the market moves and changes, one which makes efficient use of the resources it has at its disposal, without endangering the environment. It’s about applying knowledge, not just hours.”

Work Wise UK, which was launched in May last year, is a five-year not-for-profit programme to encourage new smarter working practices such as flexible working (including condensed hours and nine-day fortnights), remote and mobile working, and working from home. It has broad backing from Government, business and trade unions, and is gaining significant momentum throughout the UK.

Opening last week's summit, David Lennan, chairman of Work Wise UK, said: “Our working practices come from a bygone era and are actually extremely inefficient and wasteful in terms of time and energy. Working 9 to 5, five days a week, from a central location, coupled with the desire to travel many many miles to attend meetings, are working practices which are largely unnecessary considering the technology available today.

“Changing these practices is an obvious solution to addressing the four main issues facing our economy: competitiveness, the environment, road congestion and quality of life.”

Equalities Minister Ruth Kelly stressed the government's backing to smarter working: "We are committed to ensuring that more people can make the most of their skills and contribute to our national prosperity, and will continue to take employers with us on this journey. Working practices are a major contributor to our problems, and also the greatest opportunity to address them.”


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