Moving on up, moving on out?

The geography of jobs is changing, and so is their nature. Both of these trends make spatial mobility and qualifications and skills increasingly important at the lower-end of the labour market.

Report published on 5 July 2011 by

The Government hopes the introduction of incentive-based contracts will make the Work Programme more successful than past employment support programmes and help move 500,000 people off benefits and into work each year.  This paper is the first of two papers in our City Collaboration research strand, which examines the role of human and capital infrastructure policy in linking people to jobs outside their immediate area.  The paper investigates the changing barriers to employment across UK cities and the implications for the new employment support programme.  The next paper, due to be published in the Autumn, will take a more detailed look at transport policies and their potential role in overcoming barriers to work.

The geography of jobs is changing. While higher skilled jobs are increasingly concentrating in cities along the main transport corridors and in city centres, low-skilled jobs are dispersing out of city centres.  The nature of jobs is also changing.  The shift towards a knowledge-intensive service based economy has increased employer demand for qualifications and skills, reducing both the number and share of lower skilled, entry-level jobs.  Both of these trends make spatial mobility and qualifications and skills increasingly important at the lower-end of the labour market.

Lower skilled workers’ spatial mobility is more constrained than higher skilled workers’.  Spatial mobility is influenced by a number of factors.  These may be related to individual characteristics, such as work experience or caring responsibilities, and to socio-economic factors, such as the type and number of jobs available and employer recruitment areas.  Tackling any of these barriers in isolation is likely to be insufficient.

These findings have a number of implications for the Work Programme and wider Government policy:


  • Welfare to work policy needs to look beyond its core remit and work with partners from across other policy areas, such as transport and planning;
  • Welfare to work policy needs to continue to focus on improving the skills and qualifications of the unemployed and it needs to help people access employment opportunities outside their immediate area;
  • The success of welfare to work initiatives will depend on the effectiveness of local policy makers in supporting employment growth through the wider drives of economic growth, such as planning and transport.

Selected coverage • Telegraph • • Guardian • Observer

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