A new research team aims to make poverty reduction central to economic growth and devolution in Greater Manchester, and to provide analysis and insight on inclusive growth in GM and other UK cities. Ruth Lupton explains more about it and why it’s needed.
The 15th April sees the launch of IGAU – a new independent Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit – which I’m excited to be leading. IGAU is a partnership between the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the University of Manchester (UoM). Our goal is to put poverty reduction at the centre of plans for economic growth and devolution in UK cities, Greater Manchester in particular, and to help supply the evidence and analysis on which ‘inclusive growth’ strategies can be based.
For UoM, IGAU is a one way to take forward the University’s ambition to make a difference and tackle inequalities in the Greater Manchester city region. It is an important local strand of our work on addressing global inequalities – something the University is well known for. For JRF, the unit is a next step in an ongoing programme of work on cities, growth and poverty in the UK.
The crucial starting point for this work was evidence demonstrating that economic growth in UK cities has not tended to reduce poverty. Why not? Partly because growth of some high-value sectors can generate increasing economic output without substantially increasing employment. Partly because the jobs generated do not necessarily provide a route out of poverty – the increasingly well-known problems of low pay, precarious work and lack of in-work progression. And partly for a host of other reasons including: inadequate or expensive transport connections; low skilled or discouraged workforces; the operation of the social security system and inadequate programmes and services to develop people’s skills, connect them to jobs, help with caring responsibilities, health problems and other barriers to adequately paid employment.
The ‘inclusive growth’ concept
The idea of ‘inclusive growth’ is emerging nationally and internationally as a broadly politically acceptable way of talking about how to address contemporary global capitalism’s endemic problems of inequality and social injustice. In the UK, it is interesting to see the establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Group on inclusive growth, and to note some of the topics covered: low pay, productivity, employer-led education and skills, access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises and the opportunities and challenges of the digital age, amongst others. Internationally, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) describes its ‘All on Board for Inclusive Growth’ initiative as ‘urgent call for governments to address inequalities’. Importantly, it casts its net beyond economic inequalities – pointing to disparities in multiple aspects of people’s well being, and thus connecting to broader ideas of ‘good growth’ or ‘inclusive economies’ where the economy is positioned as serving broader goals of well-being, equity and sustainability.
Global vision and devolution
In March 2016, the OECD extended its inclusive growth work by developing an Inclusive Growth in Cities campaign, championed by city mayors from around the world. Its focus on cities is apt – cities are the engines of economic growth and of inequality, but city leaders can also be at the forefront of change – through their activities on economic development, housing, transport, local taxation and city visioning, as well as through their responses to the consequences of inequalities, like unemployment, spatial segregation and social unrest.
Devolution to city regions in the UK is starting to offer real and new possibilities for what the OECD calls a ‘whole government’ approach to inclusive growth. In other words, not just the traditional fare of active labour market programmes, skills training and urban regeneration, but much broader and more integrated strategies from local economic development to education, through leadership on employment practices, procurement and wages, to education, housing, health and care. Focusing on the city level opens up the possibility of integrated inclusive growth strategies. The question is, what to do and how to do it? Especially in an environment of drastically constrained local spending.
This is where we hope IGAU can help. Over the next few months we will be working on a stock-taking report on inclusive growth in Greater Manchester, comparing indicators of progress across UK cities, and reporting on the different challenges faced by different deprived neighbourhoods in GM in terms of their connectedness or otherwise to economic growth. Other things to look out for include policy briefings based on our own and others’ research and, of course, this new inclusive growth blogstream.
I’ll be writing much more on this site in months to come. But my hope is that this blog stream becomes more than an output for IGAU’s work but a space for broad-ranging critical and constructive thinking about inclusive growth in UK cities, and a place for sharing evidence and ideas. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.