Brown says we need to become more skilled:
As a result of changes in the global economy many of the jobs British workers do now are becoming redundant.
Of today's 6 million unskilled workers in Britain we will soon need only half a million - over 5 million fewer.
We have 9 million highly qualified workers in Britain - but the challenge of the next ten years is that we will need 14 million - five million more. Higher standards of living will depend on higher standards of learning.
There are four problems here:
1. The misplaced confidence in futurology. How can Brown claim to know what thousands of employers will need in years to come, when he and his colleagues don't even know what their own employees are up to today?
2. The fallacy of composition. For any one individual, getting skills is the key to getting better wages. But it doesn't follow that the same is true writ large. If we all become more skilled the effect might be merely to bid wages down.
3. The Star Trek fallacy. It's a common error in forecasting to extrapolate present trends; Star Trek writers foresaw space travel but not the internet. Maybe Brown is doing the same. Let's grant - which might not be true - that globalization has in recent years raised demand for skilled workers relative to unskilled ones. It doesn't follow that this will remain the case. This paper (pdf) argues that even skilled workers will soon face competition from lower-paid Chinese and Indians. Meanwhile, demand for many workers deemed to be low skilled - cleaners, shelf-stackers, care home workers - is sheltered from foreign competition. And indeed, there might be a replacement demand for such workers, as the current generation of older unskilled workers retire.
4. Blaming the victim. What Brown doesn't say is that there is already an over-supply of skills. Table 3 of this paper estimates that over one-fifth of men and a quarter of women are over-qualified for their jobs. Table 5b of this this paper (pdf) reckons that over half of workers are moderately or severely over-qualifed. And this paper (pdf) estimates that a third of graduates are over-qualified for their jobs.
One could equally well argue (pdf), therefore, that what the economy needs is not more skilled workers, but rather that employers use the skills workers already have.
However, one feature of Boss party ideology is that workers must adapt to the needs of capital, not vice versa.