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Government Policies are Failing Britain's Workforce - Transcript

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00:00            People walking to work, London

Guide Voice: Britain trails behind its competitors in industrial productivity, according to a new report from the Economic and Social Research Council. Too many companies focus on producing low quality, mass produced products and consequently fall into a trap where they can only compete on price.

00:24 INTERVIEW Robert Taylor, Research Associate, London School of Economics - "Britain does have a serious productivity problem. Our output per hour worked is a half that of the United States and 20% less than France and Germany our main competitors. It's been that for a long time. But the feeling is, and rightly so, that if Britain is to compete effectively in the new information economy, its got to raise its game and close that productivity gap with its main competitors."

00:48            GRAPHIC British productivity scaled against France, Germany and USA (Britain = 100)

00:57 INTERVIEW Ken Mayhew, Fellow of Economics, Pembroke College, University of Oxford - "Britain is locked in what we call in our research a low skilled, low spec economy. And that's in contrast to a high-skilled, high spec economy. And its all about how a country positions itself in international trade, what the nature of its competitiveness is. "

01:17 "If you produce a low spec product, then essentially you're producing something that any other country in the world, any other producer can produce. There's nothing special about it. It's the bog standard version of that good or service and all you've got to compete on is price. Which means your unit costs. Which means your productivity or your labour costs. And you win if your productivity is higher and your labour costs are lower. A high spec product is one where price and cost are important but you're competing on the product itself. You're finding a niche for that product, you're not so confined to be cheap."

01:56            Oxford Instruments factory, Tubney Woods, Abingdon.

Guide Voice: One example of a company breaking out of this mould is Oxford Instruments - a company which specialises in complex equipment for scientific research.

02:10 INTERVIEW Martin Townsend, Project Manager, Oxford Instruments - "The technology is very demanding and moving very fast. The customers continually look for improvements in higher fields, lower temperatures, so one has to continue to develop technology, to innovate."

02:23            Workers in Oxford Instruments factory

Guide Voice: Everyone is a winner in this high-skill, high-wage economy. Workplace training and development leads to job satisfaction:

02:34 VOXPOP Man polishing tube - "I spent two years at college learning the basic engineering skills but the majority of what we do here I learned on the job just on the section working here."

02:45 VOXPOP Ponytail guy - "I think because there is a risk of failure and you have to make sure the quality is the best possible and therefore you take satisfaction in your work. When things go to test and perform well then you feel that you've done a good job so yeah definitely."

03:00            Workers in workshop at Oxford Instruments

Guide Voice: Britain needs more companies like Oxford Instruments, according to the new report. And the Economic and Social Research Council wants to influence Government policy to bring these changes about.

03:18 INTERVIEW Robert Taylor, Media Fellow, London School of Economics - "The importance of this report is that it draws attention to the fact that we need to change the overall strategy on skills formation. Up until now policy-making in Britain has been concerned with the supply of labour, improving its quality, enhancing the individual capacity of workers in their skills and in their learning to innovate and compete. The report shows, however, we have to change the priorities. We have to become much more emphatic on workplace change. This involves re-organisation of workplaces, around the concept of partnership. We've got to get firms and their employees to see a common objective in raising performance in workplaces. That in fact the whole thrust of technological change and the information economy requires a stable, loyal and high quality workforce. This can only be achieved if we have retention of labour and that firms participate and involve their employees in workplace change."

04:19 INTERVIEW Ken Mayhew, Fellow of Economics, Pembroke College, University of Oxford - "The bottom line is that certainly society will be a more pleasant and more equal and I think a more stable place if it goes for the high spec, high-skilled route."

04:30            ENDS

Page contact: Tom Abbott Last revised: Fri 1 Apr 2005
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