22 January 2016 Insight

The CBI at Davos

Delegates at Davos heard from the prime minister and the chancellor - and the CBI was there to hear about concerns from business and political leaders around the world.

This year at Davos, the prime minister emphasised the UK’s trading links with the eurozone and urged businesses to speak out in the debate about EU membership. The chancellor promised that Britain would keep a cool head as markets hot up. And the CBI was on the ground to hear what issues were dominant for business and political leaders around the world.

The turbulence in the world’s financial markets was a standout concern.

“It’s a major factor for the real economy and there are real concerns it could be a challenging year,” said CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, in her wrap-up video on Friday afternoon. “But there is an underlying sense that some of the fundamentals in the world economy are still strong. Optimism is still very much in evidence.”

CBI’s chief economist Rain Newton-Smith added: “There is a disconnect between what’s happen in the markets and in the real economy. It’s encouraging that people are feeling positive about growth in the US, the UK and even in China.”

Other highlights included discussions about artificial intelligence, robotics and what it means for the world of work; how technological change is transforming the way people consume and what different countries are doing to encourage more people to save more for retirement.

Delegates also spoke about how to deliver the international climate change commitments set out in Paris in December. Newton-Smith – who also chaired the Circular Economy Awards during the event – chose to single out a question that should give all countries pause to think: “Is this the end of the oil age?”

But there was one issue on which conversation has continued to prove more powerful than action: getting women in senior roles in business. Only 17 per cent of the delegates at this year’s event were women, down 1 per cent on the previous year. “We need to create more pipelines for talent, especially in tech and financial services,” said Newton-Smith.


See all the highlights from CBI at Davos on Storify