Friday, June 10, 2005

THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY will solve the problems of your local economy in the time it takes you to say 'portfolio workers'...?!?

In my career to date, one of the most perplexing and at times bizarre phenomenons has been the rise of the "Knowledge Economy". From a piece of analysis, basically looking at SKILLS and COMPETENCIES and TACIT KNOWLEGE and how these were increasing in developed countries, allied with the rise in the service economy and activities THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY HAS NOW GONE VOODOO! it will solve the problems of your local economy in the time it takes you to say 'portfolio workers' (another bugbear of mine).

My frustration stems from the fact - all research essentially looks at the skillsets and occupational mixes of industries. If they are high skill, they are 'knowledge industries' - hold on - aren't they just 'high skill industries'???!!!

And so the bandwagon rolls on until every regeneration and economic problem can be solved by "the knowledge economy". And now its come to this in my job...

The blandness of the Knowledge Economy solution that has so far been put in every major strategy helps us not one jot to work out which businesses to assist, which training courses to fund and why and how. And folks are afraid of promoting sectors like food manufacture and processing to politicians which is a shameful state of affairs to be in because it requires low skills and will employ a lot of local people and there's demand for it in inner city region XYZ - i.e. its not knowledge economy or sexy - they want to save the sites for something that is intangible and unknown instead.

I defer to a far superior demolition job:

Terry Morahan writes in the Northern Ireland Labour Market Bulletin Edition 16 2004 (

“The new knowledge-based economy” This essentially meaningless phrase hasn’t gone away – see LMB No 16, page 201 – who has ever heard of an ignorance based economy? The hunter gatherer Australian aborigines could thrive in their desert environment 40,000 years ago – onlybecause of their intimate knowledge of the topography and natural resources oftheir tribal territories, their complete understanding of the animals they hunted and the plants they gathered for food and medicine – a truly entirely knowledge based economy.

And when the so called new knowledge economy is attempted to be measured (e.g. A Regional Perspective on the Knowledge Economy in GB, DTI) it is defined as “private sectorled industries where graduates make up at least 25% of the workforce” – hardly a satisfactory basis. This would imply that a generation ago (when under 5% were graduates) there were almost no knowledge-based sectors!


“At the heart of the knowledge-based economy, knowledge itself is particularly hard to quantify and also to price. We have today only very indirect partial indicators of growth the knowledge base itself. unknown proportion of knowledge is implicit, uncodified and stored only the minds of individuals. Terrain such as knowledge stocks and flows, knowledge distribution and the relation between creation and economic performance virtually unmapped”.- OECD 1996

In other words – its an article of faith, not reason. As Terry further said: “Most of what policy-makers need to know is still unknown, and the result is sometimes confusion.”

This article has been restored from an earlier posting that was deleted by accident.


At 4:38 pm, Blogger James said...

my favourite in my sector is 'night-time economy', closely followed by 'cafe culture'.


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