Metro Mayors can transform the prospects of Britain’s young people

27th Jan 2017

New research from the Social Mobility Commission suggests that the new Mayors’ efforts to grow their economies will contribute to the fight against worklessness.

In under 100 days, Manchester and the West Midlands will elect their first City Mayors. The new Mayors will wield significant budgets (Greater Manchester’s Mayor will control over £1 billion), direct policy in some important areas (e.g. skills, housing and public transport) and will have considerable influence over others, such as employment support, health and education. The Mayors will also be figureheads fighting for the interests of their city region, persuading businesses to invest there, and brokering collective action among partners within the city.

A new report from the Social Mobility Commission agrees with JRF’s previous research that there is little evidence of a ‘culture of worklessness’ or families with multiple generations who have never worked. This report finds that two main factors drive this.

One is health - people from workless households are more likely to have health problems which limit their work, but the more important factor was the local economy. However, it is certainly true that young people who grow up in a workless household are substantially more likely to have periods of worklessness themselves.

If someone grew up in a workless household and then lives in an area with low unemployment, their greater risk of unemployment almost disappears. But in an area with high unemployment, those who had grown up in a workless household were much more likely to be out of work than those who had not. 

Without doubt all of the Mayoral candidates will promise growth and job creation for their cities. But JRF’s research shows that growth and job creation alone do not always improve the lives of local people in deprived areas. Many of the jobs created go to people from other areas rather than locals who need them most. In order to avoid this, the new Mayors must commit to fostering Inclusive Growth; raising the productivity and pay of low paid workers, linking young people to the right training and jobs with prospects; and making sure that local childcare, transport and affordable housing are targeted to connect those in poverty to good jobs.

This week we held an international summit, bringing together City leaders from the UK and elsewhere to jump-start a drive to bring Inclusive Growth to our cities. We have set out in briefings for the candidates for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester Mayors the steps they should take to create not only more but better jobs, and crucially, connect those jobs to the local people who need them most. 

Achieving this goal makes economic sense – helping someone out of work on benefits into a job paying the Voluntary Living Wage boosts the economy by an average of £14,400.  It also makes sense for the UK’s long term future. Getting someone into work does not necessarily take their family out of poverty. But supporting more people into secure jobs with decent pay and prospects is at the heart of breaking the cycle of poverty. In under 100 days, six city regions will elect Mayors– their top priority should be leading their area towards Inclusive Growth, energising not only their economies but also their communities.