Elon Musk probably wants to rid himself of dead wood and make room for the go-getters

Elon, Elon. What’s going on? You’ve done some crazy-but-it-might-just stuff over the years and proved the haters wrong: PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, the 10 children, the Twitter takeover. But I fear you have finally lost it.

When you start channelling Jerry Maguire and yelling “Go hardcore or quit! Who’s with me?” Nobody is. Not even Renée Zellweger’s goldfish.

That’s not our way here in the Old Country. The secret to the American Dream is in the name, Elon. You can punch your fist in the air as high as you like. But exhorting anyone in these shores to do anything just leads to awkward silence.

In fact, we are considerably more famous the world over for our awkward silences than our dreams. That’s at the best of times. You don’t have to be Dickens to recognise these look suspiciously like the worst of times.

Bank of England, UK city,
Photo by Expect Best on Pexels.com

We are in the midst of a “unique labour shock”. The Governor of the Bank of England said that. And it didn’t have anything to do with Starmer’s post-Truss 39 per cent lead in the polls.

The labour market is in free-fall, due to a surge in early retirement and long-term sickness that has left Britain isolated among industrialised economies, according to Andrew Bailey.

NHS waiting lists have left a record 2.5 million people languishing at home due to long-term illness, up from 2 million in 2019. And it’s getting worse; an extra 133,000 people disappeared from the workforce for that very reason in the three months to September alone.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just announced an extra £6.6 billion for the NHS over the next two years which theoretically could help the long-term sick back to work.

In practice, it would arguably be better spent on a fundamental reform of our sclerotic health system, however that doesn’t have the same crowd-pleasing splash as throwing ever more cash into the money pit.

At the risk of sounding like a Cassandra, Jeremy Hunt’s bitter autumn budget medicine looks unlikely to kickstart economic growth.

Vacancies are also unfilled in almost every sector, because those who aren’t sick are tired – and insisting they need to work from home and walk their lockdown dogs – instead of schmoozing their way to promotion.

The number of job vacancies in the economy remains around the highest on record, meaning competition is driving up wage costs.

“Skills and labour shortages have reached crisis points…it’s a ticking time bomb for firms up and down the country.” That comes courtesy of the British Chamber of Commerce. Not much Build Back Better dynamism to be had there.

During her leadership campaign, Liz Truss launched an astonishing broadside against British workers, saying they needed “more graft” and suggested they lacked the “skill and application” of foreign rivals.

Mind you, she still got the gig, so presumably the facts spoke for themselves and nobody thought that it was particularly controversial. But workshyness isn’t just a British malaise.

A survey this week revealed that “mass French lethargy” risks cutting productivity at a time when the French are already “unhappy with their purchasing power and the state of public services”.

The study by the French Institute of Public Opinion showed that while in 1990 around 60 per cent of French people said work was “very important” to them, that figure has sunk to 21 per cent.

But back to Twitter and Elon’s eccentric belief that “hardcore or quit” will achieve anything other than a swathe of voluntary redundancies here in lazybones Britain.

Could it be that was his intention? It’s certainly less time-consuming than sacking his team one by one, which seems to have been his modus operandi thus far.

But he probably wants to rid himself of dead wood and make room for the go-getters. Oh dear. The only thing the average member of the British labour force wants to go and get is another latte. I’m not sure what the answer is, but Elon is at least a workaholic, so I expect he’ll come up with something. Or run the entire shebang himself – the algorithms could do with improvement judging from the ongoing chaos over suspensions, blue ticks and the random culling of followers.

“A company is a group organised to create a product or service, and it is only as good as its people and how excited they are about creating.”

Guess who said that? Why yes, Elon himself. He has pledged to develop new social media solutions. But first he must tackle a very pressing people problem.

Judith Woods
17 November 2022 • 6:48pm
Judith Woods

Telegraph

Government announces a cash boost for apprenticeships 1 June 2021


Today the Government have announced a cash boost for apprenticeships, with businesses able to claim £3000 for each new apprentice they take on as part of their Plan For Jobs, improving opportunities for young people to stay in and find work as we Build Back Better.

Young people have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, and the Government’s Plan for Jobs is focused on helping them get the skills they need to get the jobs they want.

The Government are going further on our Plan for Jobs by boosting cash incentives for businesses taking on apprentices, meaning that from today employers of all size in England can apply to claim £3,000 for each new apprentice hired.

This added new boost to the Government’s Plan for Jobs is improving opportunities for young people to stay in and find work – putting skills and jobs at the heart of our recovery as we Build Back Better.

Conservative Government

So as business owners we need to consider the true benefit of investing in apprentices.

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For too long, the UK market has been an easy touch for foreign, and particularly European, producers, helping to generate one of the largest trade deficits in goods of any advanced economy in the world. Put simply, we buy a lot more produce from them than they do from us.

Ever since the turn of the century, however, it’s just got bigger and bigger. Fortunately, this widening gap in goods has been partially offset by a growing surplus in services, particularly high value business and financial services.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is weld-hot-soldering-radio-welder-73833.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay

Even so, the UK economy manages to generate a consistently large current account deficit, making it highly dependent on inflows of foreign capital to prevent things tipping over into a fully blown balance of payments crisis of the sort that used to plague the nation in the Sixties and Seventies.

For a multitude of reasons, it would therefore be nice if we made more stuff. With its levelling up agenda, and its determination to make the economy more self-reliant and resilient, the Government thinks so too. Might Brexit provide such an opportunity? UK/EU third country import tariffs for selected products

Source: The Online Trade Tariff/ Access2Markets

Some background. It’s hard to put an exact date on when the UK lost the plot as a manufacturing nation, but roughly speaking it coincided with Britain’s accession to Europe’s common market.

That’s not to attribute cause as such to membership of the EU. Grown fat and lazy on once captive imperial markets, large parts of Britain’s manufacturing base had long since become internationally uncompetitive.

But those markets were increasingly shutting us out in their own drives for self-sufficiency. That’s why the UK joined the supposed alternative of the European Economic Community; sadly, many British firms found the adjustment to this more demanding, competitive landscape difficult, or even impossible.

The harsh medicine of the early Thatcher years sealed their fate.

But let’s not exaggerate here. In point of fact, Britain produces more manufactured goods in absolute terms today than ever. It’s just that service sectors have grown by far more.

Relative to GDP, manufacturing output has been falling for 50 years or more, and is today just a third of its previous level. In itself, this is no bad thing. Thanks to globalisation and technological advances, manufactured goods prices have been falling rapidly relative to others.

Border
Post-Brexit border controls have created delays at ports

Britain’s comparative advantage in services, where prices have been racing ahead relative to goods, has therefore stood the nation in good stead, enabling citizens to buy cheaply from abroad what they no longer produce at home.

Yet the transition has also been a socially destructive one. Once proud manufacturing regions have been rendered all but obsolete. We have, in a sense, traded our dignity for cheap foreign pap and a life of perpetual service. In some respects, we’ve only ourselves to blame.

Britain’s markets are more open to foreign invasion than almost any other country on the planet. UK consumers are also seemingly far less loyal to national brands than their European peers. “Buy British”, and “I’m backing Britain” campaigns have fallen on deaf ears. We like the choice and price of what our relatively unprotected borders give us.

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