24 November 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Workplace productivity will continue to be undermined if no fundamental changes are made to skills policy, according to an economist responding to the chancellor's Autumn Statement.
The statement given by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, talked about the UK as one "with employment at a record high - and unemployment at an 11-year low" and which had "bounced back from the depths of recession".
But Ian Brinkley, acting chief economist at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: "The economic forecasts from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility show that low growth and weak productivity will persist until at least 2018.
"The forecasts also show that real wage growth over the next two years will be close to zero. Even this may prove optimistic, as continued uncertainty, difficult market conditions, and higher unemployment are likely to constrain firms' ability or need to pay more. The OBR is forecasting a slow recovery in productivity, but previous forecasts have been optimistic."
He welcomed the government's announcement to invest £13 million in the Sir Charlie Mayfield-led initiative to help improve the quality of management in the UK.
Brinkley said: "This is a crucial step forward in cracking the UK's productivity puzzle, which the chancellor highlighted as a key area of focus and investment for the government.
"However, attempts to improve workplace productivity will continue to be undermined without fundamental changes to skills policy, particularly in relation to apprenticeships, lifelong learning and adult skills provision.
"The decision to invest £1.8 billion in Local Enterprise Partnerships is also welcome, given the need to provide more support for SMEs at a local level to help and encourage them to invest more in the skills of their workforce and enhance their management capability to boost employee engagement and productivity."
The chancellor also announced a new National Productivity Investment Fund of £23 billion to be spent on "innovation and infrastructure over the next five years". He added that efforts had to be sustained "over the long term if we are to make a lasting difference to the UK's productivity performance".