New Technologies Drive New Jobs

More than one in five of all people in work in Northern Ireland are in jobs that didn’t exist in 1990, a report from PwC says. The posts range from software engineers and database administrators to programmers and IT support workers, which were rare specialisms 15 years go, according to its latest UK Economic Outlook (UKEO). The 5.2 per cent rate in Northern Ireland is below that in London, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the south-west of England, but ahead of other regions like parts of the north of England and Merseyside.

The research highlights a shift in the workforce towards highly skilled professional and technical roles linked to overall economic performance in major UK regions and cities.

It says ‘skilled cities’ have tended to show stronger employment growth and a healthier trend in unemployment rates since 2005 and a higher rate of new business creation.

The UKEO research says that the best preforming regions can expect their overall workforce to grow, reflecting their ‘skilled cities’ status, with the forecast suggesting that the Northern Ireland workforce should growth by just under 5 per cent in the next decade – below the UK average of 6 per cent and the fourth lowest of the 21 regions and cities covered in their report.

But GVA data (the value of the production of goods and services) from the Office for National Statistics suggests that Northern Ireland’s GVA per capita (at 76.7 per cent) is the lowest since the present series of records began.

PwC Northern Ireland chief economist Dr Esmond Birnie says: “We are looking at GDP growth of around 1.7 per cent for Northern Ireland for 2015 – below the UK average of 2.5 per cent and behind London (3.0 per cent), Scotland (2.3 per cent) and Wales (2.1 per cent). “It’s also less than our estimate of 1.8 per cent for 2014, suggesting that, while employment may still be growing and unemployment falling, output, exports and productivity all remain elusive and remain well behind most other UK regions.” “Our assessment of property prices suggests that UK property prices ended 2014 around 10 per cent higher than at the start of the year – the strongest annual performance since 2007. “Northern Ireland average property prices increased by 4.9 per cent over the period – around half the UK average. “There’s no doubt that lower oil prices and falling inflation have given a boost to household disposable incomes and with inflation at 0.3 per cent, most workers have received what equates to a real-terms pay increase. “But the recovery is being driven by jobs rather than productivity, and productivity growth will be critical in enabling wages to recover without driving up inflation in the medium-term.”

The PwC research into the rise of the digital job says that the new types of job are in categories linked to digital technologies such as computer software engineers (80 per cent of employees now doing types of jobs that did not exist in 1990); database administrators (79 per cent); information systems managers (77 per cent); and computer programmers (71 per cent). Paul Terrington, PwC Northern Ireland’s regional chairman, said there is a role for government and other institutions to co-ordinate activity and support clusters of skilled occupations and industries outside London. He said: “Universities have a vital role in establishing successful digital hubs. “Stanford alumni, for example, have created around 40,000 companies and over five million jobs in the US. With that as a benchmark, our universities could be dynamic catalysts for innovation and growth.”