Outlook 2019: Inclusive growth is key to developing a stronger economy
Inclusive growth and social mobility must be a focus for the private and public sectors, business leaders agreed when speaking about the outlook for the coming year.
Speaking at TheBusinessDesk.com’s Outlook 2019 seminar series, Colin Sinclair, CEO of Knowledge Quarter in Liverpool, spoke about how raising aspirations in the local community was key to developing a stronger economy.
He said: “We’ve got a lot of plans to work with the city and the private sector to create a reality out of inclusive growth. We ask ourselves ‘how do we get the city’s developments impact on the communities that need regeneration?’
“So we are now looking at those communities around the Knowledge Quarter and we are thinking ‘how do we raise aspirations through housing improvement?’ There is clear evidence that show ‘if you improve housing, you raise aspiration. And if you raise aspiration, you improve people’s employability and learn new skills.
“If we link this into the internet and fibre provision, we can completely change the outcome of those more deprived households.”
Philip Rooney, managing partner at the Liverpool office of DLA, believes “a lot of work goes on under the surface that people don’t hear about,” but he wants the city to do a better job of shouting out about the work that goes on.
He said: “I’m very keen to see if we can bring that together and show people what has been done. But this can get fragmented, so the overall ambition isn’t achieved. There ends up being too many people doing great stuff but there is not a sufficient focus.”
Professor Ken McPhail of Alliance Manchester Business School, revealed that students leaving university and going to work are motivated to join companies that have initiatives geared towards tackling “social justice” issues.
He explained: “Manchester has horrendous pockets of poverty. Those conditions are the types of conditions we really need to address. A lot of the students coming through now at the University of Manchester care passionately social justice issues.
“Through their future employment they want to be able to give back, with a large portion of students preparing to sacrifice about 10% of their salary for the social and psychological return.”
Spearheading schemes to help tackle social issues in deprived areas is also something that is critical to the Yorkshire Building Society.
Nick Quin, Public Affairs Manager at YBS, said: “A few years ago, we gave all employees 31 hours a year to volunteer in the local community, and the Yorkshire Building Society has just passed 100,000 hours of volunteering time. It is really good to see the impact of this in local areas around the City Region.”
Despite the success of the UK’s major cities, they aren’t doing a great job in spreading this inclusive growth to the communities surrounding these cities, according to Richard Jeffery, director of business growth for The Growth Company.
Jeffery said: “Manchester’s prosperity has significantly increased, but at the same time, the city hasn’t seen any major developments in inclusive growth. If you look at the high levels of jobs in Manchester, they are being filled by people from outside of the region and not people within greater Manchester.
“Although it is great we are attracting new talent, there is a challenge to create good jobs and look at where these jobs are an who is getting those roles. We need to make sure all of Greater Manchester benefits.
“To tackle this, we are making sure that we have programme sin place such as workforce development, local recruitment and making people aware of local job opportunities.”
Kersten England, chief executive at Bradford Council, echoed these comments on inclusive growth and also highlighted the importance of wage increases in city regions.
Kersten said: “If you look at wage levels, they are staying at a recessionary level. We are now looking at a very tight labour market and economics would suggest that wages would go up but in reality we’ve maintained an austerity mentality. This means we have too many people in work and also on benefits. I think this is actually a bit embarrassing.
“Some of the women in my organisation are doing multiple jobs and are still hardly making enough money to bring their children up decently. Productivity and inclusive growth have to come hand in hand.”
Allison Page, Leeds office managing partner at DLA Piper, added that she believes inclusive growth and productivity also comes down to finding the right workforce.
She said: “Getting the right skills in our business is really key to us and that is right across our Northern businesses. It’s a real challenge to get all of the right brains in the right place, but when we do it drives our productivity forward.”
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