A Human Development Report for Greater Manchester
By Graham Whitham (GMPA) & Jill Rubery (Alliance Manchester Business School)
Today the University of Manchester is publishing a Human Development Report for Greater Manchester. The report itself mirrors the approach taken by the United Nations by measuring human development in Greater Manchester and all its constituent local authorities along three dimensions of health, knowledge and standards of living.
This approach is truly people centred as it recognises the significance for everyone’s life course of key life transitions and the importance of support being available to enable people to make good transitions from one life stage to the next. By taking this approach, the report sheds light on the variety of problems and challenges the combined authority will face in tackling poverty and inequality and in ensuring everybody reaches their potential.
The report reveals wide inequalities, not just between our city region and the national average or ‘benchmark’ (that is the average development scores for England) but also among the local authorities and by life stage. Greater Manchester as a whole is below the national benchmark for all of the indices. Across the ten boroughs, three local authorities (Trafford, Stockport and Bury) are frequently above the national benchmark and five others experience particularly low scores, at less than 60% of the national benchmark. Out of nine indices this applies to Manchester in six cases and to Oldham and Rochdale in five. Greater Manchester and its constituent authorities tend to score particularly poorly on measures of physical health and standards of living and the life stages where scores are particularly low include the early years, older working age and retirement to old age.
The report goes beyond constructing indices and explores how Greater Manchester fares in respect of health, knowledge and standards of living across the life course. These analyses reveal some striking results:
• That men in the most deprived quintiles within local authorities in GM are expected to live seven to ten years less than those in the least deprived;
• That children eligible for free school meals may fare no better and sometimes worse in those local authorities with overall higher average educational performance;
• That the gender pay gap is lower in GM than for England, largely due to lower male earnings;
• That 70% of professional jobs in Manchester are taken by those under 40 compared to 50% for GM as a whole;
• That it is families with children that are particularly over-represented in low skilled jobs or unemployment relative to the average for England; and
• That among the older working age population, a very high share have not worked for ten years or more or in the case of women have never worked.
More in depth research is needed before statistical findings can inform detailed policy programmes but the report does point to some principles concerning how to think about and do policy. With devolution and a new mayor in place, there is a new political space for thinking about how we approach social problems and policy challenges. The report calls for people to be put at the centre of development and for a rethinking of policy frameworks, including social goals in investment criteria, so that we move beyond the short term cost benefit approach. It supports the need for policy to take a life course approach, with policies addressing critical life stages, such as the transition into adulthood or the need to ensure people have good quality work in midlife.