Economic conference - a new stage for free thinking and debate
The conference, which was opened by First Minister, Peter Robinson MLA, brought together people from across Government and civil society in search of new ideas on the economy and job creation.
Outlining why NICVA considers the issue of job creation to be so important, Seamus McAleavey, NICVA’s Chief Executive, said:
“Good employment is the basis of a good economy. Wages provide a livelihood for individuals and their families, and create the demand for goods and services, upon which the wider economy depends.
“However job losses and company closures have been making the headlines with concerning regularity. Unemployment has increased significantly since the economic crisis began in 2007, particularly for young people, and NICVA is very concerned at the prospect of a ‘jobless recovery’ - a return of economic growth without a return of jobs."
He added, “The ‘Great Recession’ as it is now being called, has underlined the need for new thinking and perspectives. On this basis NICVA set up the Centre for Economic Empowerment and it is why our conference brought people together from across the economic and political spectrum in search of fresh thinking and some practical solutions.”
The conference was addressed by keynote speakers Stewart Lansley and Matthew Taylor. Stewart Lansley, a widely respected economist and financial journalist, made the argument that if we are to return to sustainable and less volatile growth, increasing the level of income equality is an economic imperative. He suggested that while this thesis is making its way into policy debates it will take a considerable shift in outlook and rational to be implemented in a globalised economy. The conference explored how Northern Ireland’s economy fitted into his thesis and what practical steps we might take to affect change.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) and a former chief adviser on political strategy to Tony Blair, focused on the issue of segregation and its impact on the economy. Matthew explored how Northern Ireland might develop more transformative economic and social change by carrying out scenario planning that visualizes what type of society and economy we want in 2020-2025. He contended that we need to develop methodologies and practices, in contrast to top down strategies, which can inspire individuals to collectively change behavior in order to reach agreed goals.
Local speakers such as Ian Coulter (CBI), Mark Langhammer (ATL) and Maeve Monaghan (Now) examined what specific policies and actions can and should be taken locally if the Northern Ireland economy is to create more jobs.
Exploring a range of ideas from business and jobs, innovation, the social economy, education and supporting people furthest from the labour market - the Northern Ireland policy session provided excellent discussion and debate and much food for thought.
Below, we link to our Storify, which incorporates much of the social media commentary and images from the day.
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