The Government’s industrial strategy needs to address the barriers northern cities face in attracting more high skilled jobs
In recent years London has been a magnet for graduates. As our report The Great British Brain Drain showed, the capital was particularly attractive to the highest achieving graduates. But a recent paper shows that far from being a recent phenomenon, this migration of higher skilled people south has been going on for centuries.
By tracing rare ancestral names (e.g. northern surnames such as Ainscough, Birtwistle, and Calderbank, and southern names such as Northcott and Vanstone) across the entire population from 1837-1973, and matching them with the detailed genealogy of 78,000 people with such names, Gregory Clark (University of California, Davis) and Neil Cummins (London School of Economics) look at the skills, migration patterns, and life outcomes of people in England since 1800.
Strikingly, they find that the flow of skilled people southwards is centuries old, with four particularly interesting results:
As the UK economy continues to specialise in ever more knowledge-based activities, skills relevant to these sectors are likely to become ever more important. This means that the ability of the North to retain skilled workers, and reverse what is a centuries’ old pattern, will be important to its future economic performance.
Of course, the availability of high skilled jobs will be a crucial determinant of this. If the Government’s industrial strategy is to address the lack of high skilled jobs in the North, then it needs to address the barriers that hinder the ability of the North generally, and its cities specifically, to attract such activity.
In our recent briefing Why don’t we see growth up and down the country? we set out the central role ‘place’ plays in attracting business investment, and show what barriers the industrial strategy needs to address. This is part of a series of briefings looking at the issues the Government should tackle in the strategy in order to boost growth in cities, from using clusters policy to encourage innovation, to evaluating the impact of public sector relocations on local economies. In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at other related topics, including how successful cities can manage the costs of growth, and what a city-level industrial strategy would look like.
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