Education, productivity and segregation are three areas that have not been addressed at all by the Mayor for the West Midlands. What is Labour doing to steer the agenda of the newly elected mayors?
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 'the West Midlands had the highest proportion of working-age population with no qualifications – 14.5 per cent – compared with the national figure for England of 11.2 per cent'. This is unusual given the fact that our region has nine universities.
Young people are less geographically mobile because they cannot access local 'affordable' housing, where new home building projects are not supported. The lack of geographical mobility is leading to segregation by race, income, education and social status across the West Midlands. Segregation by income for example is about lower income groups not being able to afford to live in nicer neighbourhoods. The affluent and well educated are less likely to live in 'mixed' neighbourhoods and this 'sorting' has led to conservative areas becoming more conservative. Just look at Sutton Coldfield and Solihull.
This issue leads to a less harmonious region and complacency with the status quo leading to ghettos and generational inequality (Tyler Cowen, 2017). Economists have demonstrated that GDP growth would be higher if it was cheaper to move into higher productivity cities due to gains from better jobs (Hsieh and Moretti, 2015).
ONS data shows the West Midlands had lower productivity than the UK as a whole, and has been diverging from the UK average since 2001. Low productivity is linked to low expectations. We appear to be losing the culture of ambition – the idea of doing better than the generation before. Where are the recent local rags to riches stories? Birmingham and the West Midlands can do better. The Millenials are on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in recent history (according to Economic Innovation Group and John Lettieri economist) – not surprising when young people are focused on finances and paying off their student loan debt.
Education, productivity and segregation are three areas that have not been addressed at all by the Mayor for the West Midlands Andy Street and this is an area that Labour need to be driving.