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Oliver Letwin: Good, but a way to go
10:00am Sunday 13th October 2013 in News
It is good to see increasing signs that our local economy, in tune with Britain’s economy as a whole, is beginning to recover.
Clearly, like the rest of the country, we will have a long way to go before we can say that we have anything like overcome all the difficulties of the past few years. But, all around, I see evidence of increased levels of economic activity in West Dorset.
The remarkable thing is the extent to which, even through the most difficult years, employment has held up locally. We have been, throughout, one of the handful of constituencies across Britain with the lowest unemployment rates and that position, mercifully, has remained as the recovery begins.
Part of this, is due to the ingenuity and entrepreneurial flair of a large number of businesses which have continued trading through difficult times or even founded businesses or expanded during these times. Broadly, as business expands, so does the opportunity for people to find work.
But what has struck me recently is the extent to which some of the prophecies that people have been fond of making through my lifetime about the effect of new technology on levels of employment have been proved false.
I really can’t remember any time during my lifetime (and I am not sure that there has been any time in the world’s history) when technology has evolved more rapidly than during the last decade. It seems almost impossible to believe that the smart phone didn’t exist 10 years ago, or that the switch of business to the internet hadn’t even begun in any really serious way at that time. And yet, during this same period of massive technological change (and despite great recession) employment has actually held up amazingly well not only in West Dorset but across most of Britain.
I was reminded of this just recently in Dorchester. For many years, I have used a machine every so often to clean my car. But there are indeed several groups of young people providing enormously good car cleaning services – done by hand. Of course they are using tools of various kinds. But they are able to achieve results far superior to anything that any automatic system can produce, and this element of human serviced has triumphed over mechanisation.
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