The U.K. economy's upward growth is set to continue into 2014 -- although businesses must ensure there are better opportunities and pay for their employees, the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said on Monday.
CBI Director-General John Cridland used his New Year message to hail the U.K.'s economic recovery after several difficult years, which is now delivering jobs that will, over time, help to increase living standards. However, he stressed that business needed to make sure the improving economic situation worked for everyone across Britain.
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"The good news is that wageswill pick up in the year ahead as growth beds down and productivity improves," he said. "But there are still far too many people stuck in minimum wage jobs without routes to progression – and that's a serious challenge that businesses and the Government must address."
He added: "The CBI…is very clear: business has a contribution to make here. We want growth to be meaningful to everyone in society: our workforce colleagues, our neighbours, our community stakeholders."
The CBI head's comments come after a string of positive data for the U.K. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently noted that gross domestic product (GDP) was up 0.8 percent in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the second, signalling a revision for the annual growth rate for the year from 1.5 percent up to 1.9 percent.
Furthermore, the think tank Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) predicted that the U.K. will overtake Germany to become Europe's largest economy by 2030. However, the opposition Labour Party in the U.K. has often stressed that despite the recovery, people's living standards and wages have struggled to show any improvement.
The current national minimum wage is £6.31 ($10.41) per hour for over 21 year olds, although the Living Wage Foundation, which calculates the amount an individual needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living, argues that the real "living wage" is £8.55 ($14.10) an hour in London and £7.45 ($12.29) in the rest of the UK.
According to poverty action group the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, more working households are living in poverty in the U.K. than non-working ones for the first time, according to a new report. The Foundation reported that just over half of the 13 million people in poverty - some 6.7 million people live in a family with at least one working adult, an increase of 500,000 on last year.
Cridland stressed the need forbusinesses to focus on advancing the careers of their employees and the needfor "higher apprenticeships and part-time higher education."
"Businesses must support employees in every part of the country to move up the career ladder, while also giving a helping hand to young people taking their first tentative steps into the world of work," he said.
"As the financial situationof many firms begins to turn a corner, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is to deliver growth that will mean better pay and more opportunities for all their employees after a prolonged squeeze."
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Cridland concluded with a message to the U.K.'s politicians with the general election just 18 months away.
"Politicians must remember that businesses are absolutely crucial to driving the recovery home, creating jobs and raising living standards for all," he concluded. "My message to the public is that businesses are up for that challenge and 2014 is the year we will deliver."