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Glasgow fares well in Cities Outlook – but still work to do

Fresh analysis in this year’s Centre for Cities Cities Outlook, published yesterday (Monday), examines how 64 UK towns and cities are faring in the UK Government’s aim to achieve a high wage low welfare economy. 

Despite what you might expect from the political rhetoric, Scottish cities, according to the report, tend to be doing rather better than their counterparts down south – with Edinburgh and Aberdeen qualifying as high wage low welfare economies alongside cities like Oxford, Cambridge and of course London.  

Glasgow, as the UK’s fourth largest city, often shares characteristics with other large historically industrial cities like Manchester and Birmingham, and sure enough they all have the challenges of a relatively high welfare bill.  However Glasgow is noticeably different in one very critical respect.  Glaswegians – and the Centre for Cities takes a broadly regional definition of the city – tend to have much higher skill levels. Indeed Glasgow has the ninth highest skills performance in the list, making it second only to London amongst the top 10 largest UK cities.  

That record of achievement in skills translates into higher wages as businesses compete to draw on the city’s talent pool, and the key graph in the report shows Glasgow much closer to edging into the high wage low welfare category than most English cities. 

But it is also true that Glasgow still has one of the highest proportions of its citizens holding no qualifications whatsoever, almost certainly the obstacle to future improvement.  Some of that is a legacy from the city’s restructuring, and older unskilled workers will of course gradually reach retirement.  However the crucial task is to guarantee that no future young Glaswegian enters the labour market under-qualified. 

That’s why Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is investing so much time and energy in supporting the work of both Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government in tackling youth unemployment.  We see quite clearly the appetite within business to work with schools in influencing the choices our young folk make in their education.  

So far we have matched 19 schools with 19 local companies to give the school leadership the opportunity to get to grips with what Glasgow employers are looking for in their future workforce.  But there is a lot more to do. 

Delivering the next steps to a high wage low welfare economy will be achieved in our schools and our colleges, but for sure business is ready to help.

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