China and India are likely to be the biggest challenges to the UK economy over the next five years. Or so the British public believes, according to a survey published this week by accountancy firm Deloitte with online researcher YouGov.

In a study of UK public attitudes to global economic competition, 79% of the 2,704-strong sample identified China as the biggest threat to the UK. India, too, is eyed with concern by 45% of those surveyed.

The factors that most worry Britons are China's burgeoning manufacturing sector and the continuing drain of UK jobs to Indian outsourcers, primarily call centres and data entry/processing operations.

A negative reaction to off-shoring was expressed by 64% of survey respondents, while a quarter also believed that existing off-shoring programmes should be reversed. Only 6% said they supported their continuation.

Comments David Owen, Deloitte's head of consulting: "The survey results clearly show the uncertainty that exists among the UK population when it comes to the growing prowess of India and China.

"[There] needs to be a greater understanding among the public that the transfer of certain jobs to other locations is a trend that is likely to continue and brings with it opportunities as well as threats."

Continued Owen: "UK located companies should benefit from, rather than be threatened by the increasingly global nature of the product and services markets."

According to a separate report from Deloitte, the UK's trading competitiveness is also likely to wane over the next five years. Currently Britain is ranked sixth most-competitive nation, trailing the USA, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany.

Come 2010, Deloitte estimates that the US, Sweden, Finland and Denmark will remain in situ. But South Korea will outstrip Germany and the UK will plunge from sixth ranking to twelfth as Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Austria zoom past in the fast lane.

However, Deloitte suggests that Britain's decline is not inevitable if the right steps are taken to spur innovation, enterprise and investment

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff