New figures shine light on insecure work hotspots across 12 English city-regions

A worker picking up litter.

A new set of city-region employment profiles published by the Work Foundation at Lancaster University reveals the regions and local authorities with the highest levels of ‘severely insecure’ work (employment that is involuntarily temporary or part-time, or when multiple forms of insecurity come together, such as casual or zero-hours contracts, or low or unpredictable pay).

New Work Foundation analysis focusses on the nine Mayoral Combined Authorities and Greater London where over a third of England’s workforce – 11 million workers – live. The research also looks at the East Midlands Combined County Authority and the North East Mayoral Combined Authority, who will both elect their first Mayors in 2024.

Findings suggest those who live in the Tees Valley Combined Authority are the most likely to be stuck in insecure jobs compared to the national average, with nearly one in four (24%) workers in severely insecure work – well above the national of one in five workers (19.8%).

The Liverpool City Region has the lowest rate of severely insecure work (18.8%) across England’s nine Mayoral Combined Authorities and Greater London.

Middlesbrough in the Tees Valley is the hotspot for severely insecure work, with nearly a third of workers (29.8%) in insecure jobs – which is 10 percentage points higher than the national average. Figures also show that one in four workers in Darlington (26.7%), North East Derbyshire (25.7%) and Wolverhampton (25.6%) are in severely insecure work – well above the national average.

“Being trapped in insecure work isn’t just about poor pay,” explains Rebecca Florisson, Principal Analyst at the Work Foundation. “Research shows those in insecure work also experience worse health, living standards and future job prospects so it is an issue that affects all aspects of life.

“Communities across the country are already struggling with the lack of secure, good quality jobs in their areas, which means that the Government’s focus on getting people into ‘any’ job is both unhelpful and harmful.”

The research found that there is some variation in the incidence of severely insecure work within local authorities, sectors, and amongst different worker groups. Women in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority are 1.9 times more likely to be in severely insecure work than men.

Black and minority ethnic workers who live in the North of Tyne Combined Authority are 2.2 times more likely to experience severely insecure work relative to white workers. In the Liverpool City Region, disabled workers are 1.5 times more likely to be in severely insecure work than non-disabled workers, which is slightly above the national average.

“We know that those who face wider structural disadvantage in the labour market are more likely to find themselves in these kinds of jobs,” Rebecca Florisson continues.

“Women, those with disabilities, and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are often particularly at risk of severely insecure work, leaving these worker groups even more vulnerable to the cost-of-living crisis.”

Researchers suggest two main policy recommendations for the UK Government and the Combined Authority Mayors to focus on over the next five years.

  • To significantly reduce levels of severely insecure jobs across the UK by 2030
  • To ensure that no English Mayor Combined Authority is home to higher level of severely insecure work than the national average.

Recommendations for Combined Authorities

  • Recognise insecure work in economic development and skills strategies based on the sectors and roles within which it is concentrated and the worker groups who are primarily impacted.
  • Include the regular tracking of insecure work indicators as part of existing Combined Authority labour market analysis.
  • Explore partnerships and engagement with employment charters to share lessons and best practice.
  • Harness procurement and investment incentives by building clear employment standards requirements into the commissioning and procuring goods and services.
  • Support national enforcement bodies by helping to buildrelationships with local employers and reporting non-compliance or violations of rights in your area.

The research included in the nine Mayoral Combined Authorities:

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
  • Greater Manchester
  • Liverpool City Region
  • North of Tyne
  • South Yorkshire
  • Tees Valley
  • West Midlands
  • West of England
  • West Yorkshire

In addition, we included Greater London (a strategic Regional Authority), and the East Midlands and the North East - both will become Mayoral Combined Authorities in 2024.

To find out more about our city-region profiles and recommendations, visit our publication page:

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