It’s official. Wales is the UK’s poorest nation.
A headline posted on the Wales Online website may not have surprised many had it been published in the early 90s, given the economic decline from years of booming coal and metal industries. But decades have passed since then. Surely enough time has elapsed for this country start to develop new economic strategies and to lift itself out of poverty?
Of course, poverty is relative. So what does being ‘poor’ actually mean? The claim made by Wales Online is based on data released by the Office for National Statistics, looking at Gross Value Added per head, a measure of average income. The data revealed the GVA for Wales was just 74.3% of the UK average.
This means that if I live in Wales I will probably be earning 74.3% of what I would be earning if I lived elsewhere in the UK. Not a great advertisement for the young, bright and ambitious.
Some would argue that the GVA does not take into account living costs, which may be true, but it still does not explain the fact that the GVA per head in Wales has dropped from 85% of the UK average GVA to the 74% it is at today. Meanwhile unemployment in the region is at 8.1% of the population compared to 7.7% in the UK.
On that definition Wales is slipping into poverty.
So what is being done about it?
The WAG published a 50 page document in July called d Economic Renewal: a new direction which identified six key sectors to the future of the Welsh economy.
– Energy and environment
– Advanced materials and manufacturing
– Creative industries
– Life sciences
– Financial and professional services
And earlier today, the WAG launched a strategy called Digital Wales. In a statement on the WAG website First Minister for Wales, Carywn Jones, outlined some of the problems facing Wales in the drive to get the country online.
– A third of the adult population in Wales does not use the internet;
– Less than 40% of Welsh SMEs actually sell on-line;
– One in six Welsh employers consider the IT skills of their employees insufficient;
– Less than a quarter of the population currently use online public services;
– High speed broadband is not yet available in many parts of Wales.
As far as I can see, in addition to the many infrastructural challenges to growth in the digital sector there is another significant obstacle to economic growth in Wales. The the job market is heavily reliant on the public sector, which will soon face cuts as austerity measures are implemented.
Now with the explosion of the internet it seems digital industries are more important than ever, but with poor infrastructure will these measures from the Welsh Assembly Government be too little too late?