Data and research

Forget North – South, here’s the North – North Divide

Data & research, talent, Manchester

Henri Egle SorotosHenri Egle Sorotos, February 6, 2018

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Barm cakes, cobs, stotties and scufflers. The North isn’t homogeneous by any means – you just have to look at food to know that. Once more I’ve been tinkering with labour market statistics, and want to share my take on growing labour differentials. Read on for my take on Northern labour divide.

England is polarised into North and South, or at least so say the press. I’m not sure about this – it assumes the two regions are uniform and homogenous within themselves. There certainly are benefits clustering regions into one, but sometimes breaking areas down into their respective parts can reveal a different story. In comes job ads data and labour market demand statistics.

Taking every Northern job ad posting from the past three years, I’ve compiled which roles are more and less likely to be advertised in the Greater Manchester region compared to the North as a whole. It really confirms Manchester as the capital of Northern digital tech. Nearly 1 in 8 roles advertised in Manchester are in digital tech roles. This is huge.

At the other end of the spectrum, engineering and healthcare roles are far less common. We see almost the exact reversal in the North East.

Underneath these percentage figures are different sector sizes. Digital tech roles in Manchester represent a large chunk of the local labour market. Manufacturing roles on the other hand represent only 1.6% of local labour demand. To account for this I have calculated the proportional differences – how much more or less likely a job is to be advertised relative to the size of the sector in the North of England. Note, the table below is in the same order as above for comparison.

Digital tech jobs are 1.22 times more likely to be advertised in Manchester compared to the rest of the Northern region. Legal jobs are the biggest positive outlier – 1.33 times more likely to be advertised in GM.

Deconstructing Difference

Work to deconstruct different regional variations chimes with our new organisational change and renewed mission to connect clusters across the UK. This really isn’t about North – South divides, but the shared challenges and strengths of people across the entire country. The new Tech Nation is here to connect people from across the four countries that comprise the United Kingdom.

Difference is a subjective; in the same way that we sometimes arbitrarily divide up the United Kingdom into administrative regions, so we also divide up populations based on fixed characteristics. Rightly, or wrongly – it’s a tool used to understand the drivers of difference. But we should instead attempt to shift the balance to look through a more meaningful lens at phenomena that truly tell us how we can get better at learning from the experiences of others, and capitalising on diversity.

Crucially, the perception of difference is often reinforced by the opinions and actions of people living and working in particular places. The Tech Nation report attempts to get a handle on how tech communities feel about their local areas.

Within the North, we see that people have very different views when it comes to access to highly skilled talent. In the 2017 report, in Sheffield, for instance, 51% of respondents cited talent as a challenge, whilst in Leeds the equivalent was 74%. The 2016 average advertised digital salary (using job ad data from Burning Glass Ltd.) was £50,041 in Leeds, whilst in Hull it was £34,895. A lack of highly skilled workers was much less of an issue for the local community in Hull – only 47% of respondents felt that this was a challenge.

Next steps

What mean for the North? We have a lot to learn from one another, and from the rest of the country, and – of course – other places have much to learn from the North! Markets are social constructs, and the labour market is no different – to get to grips with its complexities, we need 1) a better grasp of the data (and the work we’re doing using online job ads from Adzuna is a great step) alongside 2) a deep understanding of the communities underpinning these markets. Stay tuned for more on jobs and skills from Tech North and Tech City UK as we become Tech Nation in the near future.


This post was co-written by George Windsor