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The Work Foundation

How to earn your corn in the age of austerity

Authors: The Work Foundation Stephen Overell

21 September 2010

The gig was called 'Where will the jobs come from?'. But when you stage an event at 8 o’clock at night the real question is 'Where will the punters come from?. People are hungry. There are bars. Diversions. Liverpool tempts the yellow pound.

Fortunately, they came. They usually do at the Lib Dem conference. The spirit of Millian vigour and intellectual engagement with the world makes for immensely satisfying, standing-room-only events.

The title was an attempt to interrupt the conversation about cuts. Political credibility rests on a detailed cuts strategy. Strange how it also seems to demand near silence about the sources of growth. So where?

Futurology is a hazardous enterprise. Twenty years ago many of the jobs we do today did not even exist, warned Will Hutton. It is impossible to foresee the technology.

Optimism was the medicine, argued Andrew Cave from the Federation of Small Businesses. Invoking Churchill and the Blitz, he offered a message of resilience (and approval for the scrapping of the £12 billion Business Links scheme).

Chris Nicholson, chief executive of Centre Forum, the liberal think tank, meanwhile, suggested that no party had a convincing industrial strategy. “We have not figured out the role of the state in shaping enterprise.”

Yet for David Ward, MP, a member of the business and enterprise select committee, all state efforts had to think in terms of 'place: local jobs for local people'. 'You don’t leave a tax office one day and start work on a solar wind farm the next'.

Up to the fateful autumn of 2007, the UK made its way in the world through financial services, property, construction and a public sector jobs machine kept well greased by relatively generous public spending.

The gates on that way of life have shut. We know the words to describe what’s needed - 'rebalancing', 'innovation', 'prioritisation'. The policies they imply are taking shape.

The next Where will the jobs come from? event takes place at the Labour Party Conference:  
Tuesday, 28 September,12.30 - 14.00      
Where will the jobs come from? Growth, fairness and
Good Work
French Suite, Midland Hotel

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