To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether he plans to seek to ensure that by 2020 the UK will be in the top eight Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for skills, employment and productivity performance; and if he will make a statement.
In 'A Strategy for Sustainable Growth', published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in July, the Government state that, by strengthening macroeconomic fundamentals and providing a strong framework for business and growth, they aim to increase productivity through skills, innovation, ICT diffusion and new firm start-ups. We are in the process of further developing this strategy to improve the UK's performance.
We want to build an internationally competitive skills base. We have already begun the process of reforming the further education and skills system by refocusing funding on 50,000 extra apprenticeship places, and putting measures in place to free colleges and training organisations from unnecessary bureaucracy. But we want to go further, to redesign the system so it places power and responsibility in the hands of learners and employers, and supports the vision for a "Big Society". We are therefore consulting on the future direction of skills policy, including how to measure how well employers and the skills system are progressing in meeting our priorities.
On productivity, between 1998 and 2008, the UK closed the productivity (as measured by output per worker) gap with Germany and narrowed the gap with France, and broadly kept pace with the US. Over the same period, the gap in productivity in terms of output per hour worked has also narrowed with Germany, though remained broadly unchanged with both France and the US.
On employment, the latest comparable data (2009) show the UK's employment rate is 70.6% compared with an OECD average of 64.8% in 2009. We seek to support a flexible labour market. We also recognise the continuing need to provide strong employment support to those that are out of work.