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18 January 2016

Small businesses reveal resilience amid concern for future of employment - FSB

THERE is a real concern for the future amongst small businesses in Northern Ireland in terms of access to skilled employees, despite an increase in confidence being shown in the latest Small Business Index (SBI) from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) for Q4 2015 has revealed.

One of the primary concerns raised is that while local small businesses are leading the way on job creation, 61% of respondents, feel they will not be able to find a candidate with the adequate skills and, furthermore, 73% feel that college and university leavers are the least prepared for workplace.

Growth in confidence levels amongst businesses is not the case for the whole of the UK, with the SBI revealing a growing North/South gap in confidence between businesses in Scotland, North East England and Wales and those in the Midlands and the South of England. While there is good news for the UK as a whole in terms of job creation, increasing revenues and improving productivity, firms in the North East of England, Scotland and Wales risk being left behind.

Overall confidence across the UK remains in positive territory standing at 21.7 points which is 4.1 points higher than Q4 2014 with Northern Ireland standing at 20 points.

John Allan, FSB National Chairman, said:  “A clear divide in confidence is now emerging across different parts of the UK, with businesses in the South and in sectors like technology and professional services feeling more positive about 2016. The recent flooding is likely to further weigh on business confidence in the North of England and Scotland where small firms are now beginning to pick up the pieces as the waters recede.

“FSB members across the country tell us they are concerned about a number of business challenges coming down the line in 2016. This includes the rollout of pensions auto-enrolment, the new National Living Wage, and changes to taxes on dividends. Members are also deeply worried about proposed mandatory quarterly tax reporting, which in its current form will add to the administrative burden of small firms and the self-employed.

Wilfred Mitchell OBE, FSB Policy Chair for Northern Ireland added:  “In Northern Ireland, small businesses continue to show they are resilient, leading the way on employment growth and productivity. Smaller businesses remain the largest employment provider in Northern Ireland and are continuing to lead the way in job creation with firms reporting that they have expanded their staff in the last three months, with more planning to do so this Spring.

“Whilst economic growth picked up in Northern Ireland at the end of 2014 onwards, this has been on unsteady foundations as spending cuts by Stormont continue to be realised, including reduction of public sector employment as well as cuts to the higher education budget, which is essential to future economic growth.

“To ensure more stable economic growth, the jobs being created by our small businesses need to be filled by those who are adequately skilled and able to demonstrate employability skills.  As the majority of respondents state that most candidates do not possess these skills, it is crucial that education and training providers engage directly with small business owners in Northern Ireland to ascertain what is required.”  Mr Mitchell concluded.


Read more about Wilfred Mitchell