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 Better Jobs for Greater Manchester – What Can the Mayor Do?

IGAU logo for GM Poverty Action articleAs part of the ongoing Work and Wages series, Ceri Hughes from the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit writes about some of the employment challenges facing Greater Manchester, and what the new mayor might do to address them.

Shortly after the election on May 4th the new Mayor for Greater Manchester will take up their post. Their working hours will likely be long but they will also have one of the more rewarding jobs in the city region. Our research shows that 23% of people living in this city are in jobs that pay below the Living Wage, while many more are unable to find work or are doing work that does not match their interests or needs. For example, less than half of working-age disabled people are in work in Greater Manchester (43% compared to 47% for the UK as a whole) and there are also wide disparities in employment rates across the city region.

These are just a few of the symptoms of the flexible, service-oriented labour market that operates across the city region and they won’t be ‘solved’ by one person, but local action can be taken to support people to find work that means something to them.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have put forward several ideas for improving the quality of jobs in Greater Manchester. One idea is for the Mayor to work with businesses and industry bodies to try to raise productivity in low-paying sectors and boost wages. This would mean turning the focus on sectors such as retail, care and hospitality and could have a real impact: together low paying sectors account for over a third (36%) of the jobs in Greater Manchester. Previous blogs in this series have also called on local leadership to establish a Living Wage Zone in Greater Manchester and in a forthcoming paper we will also consider the role that employment charters can play in changing employment practices and raising standards for people in Greater Manchester.

The point is not just to tackle low pay but also to create opportunities for people to move into rewarding and better paid roles. Oldham, for example, is now trialling a Careers Advancement Service that aims to support 400 low skilled residents to progress in work. The Mayor could build on this initiative, trialling different approaches to support people to progress in work. We also urgently need find ways to support the long-term unemployed, disabled people and others that have not been served well by mainstream employment support services.

IGAU Work and Wages what can the GM Mayor do for GM Poverty Action

Ceri Hughes

This is only the start, but it hopefully illustrates that the Mayor can play a decisive role in championing these issues. There is scope for them to work with, and lessons to learn from, existing projects across Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

Suggested actions for the Mayor and city region leadership:

Work with businesses and industry bodies to develop strategies to raise productivity in low-paying sectors;

Take on the employment challenges facing the long-term unemployed and others.

Test employment support programmes that build on the evidence and extend support to those who move in to low-wage work;

Find out more about these ideas, or get in touch to share your own  @Ceridwenhughes

Further reading: JRF Mayoral Briefing Paper
and IGAU “How the Mayor can help to deliver inclusive growth”