Confident young people with well-rounded abilities are vital to the future success of our economy
Ensuring the skills of young people best reflect the evolving needs of employers and their businesses is fundamental to maintaining our strong and productive workforce, equipped for the 21st century, writes Mims Davies, the new Minister for Employment.
We are living longer, changing our careers more frequently, and enjoying working more flexibly than ever before. These are just three of the positive ways the UK labour market has changed in the last decade.
I am proud the UK has one of the best employment records in the G20 with 32.8 million people in work, a significant increase of more than 3.8 million since 2010.
The UK workforce is now more diverse than ever before, the number of women in work has climbed to a new record high, and the ethnic minority employment rate is also breaking barriers - making up 51% and 32% of UK employment growth respectively since 2010.
With a record 10.6 million older workers also in employment in the UK, this shows that - despite uncertainty in parts of our economy - the UK labour market is more representative than ever before.
The number of unemployed people continues to fall in every region of the UK, remaining at a remarkable record low of less than 4%. This, coupled with youth unemployment nearly halving since 2010, means our young people are better placed than ever to embark on new, fulfilling careers.
This includes developing skills for key sectors of the future such as technology, which has seen a huge 38% rise in new UK jobs. Other sectors, such as manufacturing and construction, are also experiencing a big jobs boost, with 85,000 more people employed in those sectors in the last year.
UK wages meanwhile continue to rise at their fastest pace for a decade, outstripping inflation for 17 months in a row, boosting consumer confidence and - most importantly - the spending power for millions of families across our communities.
While this is certainly a strong picture, as a government one of our most important tasks is to respond to the changing nature of our labour market to keep people in good, productive and engaging work. We must recognise, along with other countries, that we are facing some undeniable challenges. In fact, how we react to the evolving jobs market is a core issue worldwide, so it is crucial we learn and share all knowledge possible so we can support the resilience of the global labour market.
This week, on my first international trip as the new Minister for Employment to the G20 summit in Japan, I have been doing just this. I heard about the challenges felt by many countries, such as how best to balance opportunities for older workers alongside those of young people, as well as tackling the social barriers around getting more women, and those returning to the workplace, into work.
I shared with my counterparts our perspective on the needs of an ageing workforce, and the importance of re-training, retaining and recruiting experienced workers – including supporting employers to offer more flexible working and reforming statutory sick pay. I also shared best practice on equality and key government policies such as the successful rollout of automatic enrolment – which has meant more people in the UK are saving into a workplace pension than ever before, making them better prepared for retirement. That’s a policy I know many other G20 countries were enormously interested in emulating.
While the jam-packed agenda of the conference meant there was little time for experiencing the famous Japanese hot springs, nor any international rugby, I did come away with a clear determination and direction for what I want to do as Employment Minister.
It is clear from this summit how much more we can do globally to tackle these important shared issues – such as our workplace support for families and those caring for relatives, battling modern slavery, backing the self-employed, eliminating the gender pay gap, and promoting skills and lifelong learning.
During my trip, the UK also signed a Memorandum with Japan’s Minister for Health, Labour and Welfare. It was a huge honour to be a part of, and is the first of its kind between the UK and Japan. The new agreement will support the sharing of information and learning between our two countries on these important labour market challenges, and is also a clear symbol of Global Britain and our intent to confirm our place in the world post-Brexit.
Improving understanding and supporting every part of our diverse labour market is a worthy challenge, and one I am very passionate about getting on with.
I am looking forward in particular to striving for even more opportunities for all in our workforce, and especially our young people entering the jobs market. Confident young people with well-rounded abilities are vital to the future success of our economy, and ensuring their skills best reflect the evolving needs of employers and their businesses is fundamental to maintaining our strong and productive workforce, equipped for the 21st century.
Mims Davies is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Conservative MP for Eastleigh.