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Men in Tights

Two recent statements by the Prime Minister finally convinced me that our government is at odds with reality. The first of these, only last week when Mr Blair mocked the office of The Lord Chancellor, describing the most senior judge as a man dressed in woman’s tights, while the second, a little closer to home, showed little understanding of the true condition of the domestic IT industry:

Responding to a question from Conservative backbencher, Andrew Selous, concerning unemployment in the IT sector, The Prime Minister answered:

"I simply point out to the Honourable. Gentleman that in his constituency, as in others, unemployment has fallen dramatically over the past few years and there are increasing employment opportunities for people in IT and other sectors as well”.

Last year, I wrote in ‘Thought for The Day’, that the recession in the IT industry was largely invisible to government, because the self-employed professional rarely if ever, ‘signs-on’ until he or she is quite destitute. In twelve months, nobody I know has claimed the job-seekers allowance, although I’m glad to say that most have now found work. Perhaps not the work they would have liked but it takes approximately six months, in my experience for someone to find regular work in this industry, once they have been axed and beyond this point, the chances of finding employment become increasingly harder from what I’m told.

Government’s answer is to grant 200,000 work permits a year, up from 40,000 the previous year and making it even harder for UK citizens to compete on an equal basis in their own, very oversubscribed market.

Mr Blair argues, "Those who get work permits are specifically audited for their ability to get work in this country - people want them to work for them - and I do not think that it is right to set those people against those who are looking for work”.

So where are those 200,000 ‘guest workers’ going? Many will find work in highly specialised roles, like Cisco-trained engineers but I’m prepared to guess that the greater proportion will, as recent stories in Computer Weekly have revealed, go into some very large unnamed companies through the front door, while the more expensive or should I say ‘uncompetitive’ domestic contractor workforce leaves through the rear.

Perhaps I’m wrong but in my view, government clearly does not have an accurate picture of unemployment in the IT sector and its causal forces. In his book ‘The New Barbarian Manifesto’, Professor Ian Angell of the London School of Economics, warns of exactly the consequences that we see around us today. I suspect that few people in government have read it. If they had, we might see a more enlightened policy towards the protection of our rather shaky IT sector.

So while government abolishes the rights of men to wear tights, the economic truths of our domestic IT market appear to be hidden behind a veil of misleading unemployment statistics. Until government is able to demonstrate a real understanding of both the importance of tights and the problems facing this important sector of the economy, I find it hard to express real confidence in its programme of development and reform. Is this unkind or do you share my views?


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