GLASGOW really isn’t the jobless capital of the UK, as reported yesterday. The issue raised in the Office of National Statistics figures was workless households. There’s a subtle but vital difference.
Unemployment in Glasgow is actually less than in many other major cities, but we have more incidence of entire households being out of work. In essence, we have concentrated our unemployment problem into certain districts, many of which have familiar names.
The figures are also rather overstated because the City of Glasgow boundaries exclude affluent, high employment areas like Bearsden, Milngavie and Newton Mearns.
So Glasgow doesn’t have a “different” problem than the rest of the UK’s major cities, it has virtually the same challenges as a Manchester, a Birmingham or a Liverpool.
It’s worth making the point because the bare figures issued yesterday give the impression that Glasgow’s economy is weaker than Manchester or Birmingham, and that would be unfair and untrue.
For example, Glasgow has a higher skills attainment level. The work of urban policy research unit Centre For Cities shows that Glasgow has 40 per cent of its population with degree-level qualifications or above, with Manchester at 32 per cent and Birmingham at 25 per cent. We also have much higher wages per head than all of the ten largest cities in the UK outside London. The issue in Glasgow is in tackling the extreme disparities of income.
Right now, tackling youth unemployment is important, and Glasgow City Council is doing what it can to give young people opportunity. Employers are prepared to look at different ways of adding to that work.
But alongside that, the city also has to deal with households in areas where nobody works, and those require different measures. What is needed is a whole family approach. There are initiatives down south that we ought to keep a close eye on, for example the Familywise project in Newcastle, where they assist families.
Also major changes are being made in the powers at a local level in England, with all the large cities having some sort of City Deal established, addressing many of the issues involved in growing job opportunities and wealth. Obviously Glasgow, being in Scotland, doesn’t have that.
• Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce