More jobs than you can shake a world heritage certificate at
For once, Joe Anderson had positive words to say yesterday about Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Pickles' announcement that he will not be calling in the Liverpool Waters development scheme for public inquiry was welcomed by Liverpool's directly-elected mayor as "fantastic news for Liverpool". In addition to transforming acres of semi-derelict dockland, the development proposals, submitted by the Peel Group, are predicted to create 20,000 new jobs.
If ever there were an area in need of 20,000 jobs, it is north Liverpool. In Kirkdale, 48% of the 7,751 households in the ward have no adult in employment. In three neighbouring wards, all with similar numbers of households, the proportion with no employed adult is similar: 57% in Everton, 46% in Anfield and 45% in County. Worklessness in these neighbourhoods has been at this level for decades, following mass job loss in north Liverpool's docks and related manufacturing activity from the 1960s onwards (20,000 new jobs would be equivalent to about half the decline in the total number of Dock workers in Liverpool since 1945).
Curiously, the projection that Liverpool Waters will create 20,000 new jobs is up 3,000 on the figure cited in media reports just under a year ago, but down 5,000 from those quoted in 2011. Never mind, though, for Liverpool Waters is not the only job-creation scheme in town. Across the Mersey, Peel is projecting that 27,000 new jobs will be created at Wirral Waters. In Sefton, the construction of the Liverpool 2 Container Terminal, also a Peel development, is projected to create a further 5,000 jobs. Between them, the three schemes offer the prospect of an astonishing 52,000 new jobs on Merseyside, and would replace almost a quarter of the 237,000 jobs the city-region lost from 1971-96.
More encouraging still, these new projected jobs come on top of the existing projections for large-scale employment growth on Merseyside made in recent decades. Indeed, here is a sample of future job projections arising from regeneration schemes and private-sector led developments commenced since the mid-1990s, when overall job loss began to bottom-out on Merseyside:
- Merseyside Objective 1 programme, first round (1994-1999): 49,000 projected jobs;
- Speke-Garston Development Co. (1996 onwards): 9,000 projected jobs;
- Merseyside Objective 1 programme, second round (2000-06): 56,500 projected jobs;
- Liverpool Airport expansion (2001 onwards): 1,300 projected jobs;
- Kings Arena development proposals (2002) 3,000 projected jobs;
- New Heartlands housing market renewal programme (2003 onwards): 87,000 projected jobs;
- Liverpool One (2004-10): 4,000 projected jobs;
- Capital of Culture (2004 onwards): 14,000 projected jobs;
- Liverpool SuperPort (2011-2020): 21,000 projected jobs.
Add in the projected jobs arising from Peel's three current proposed developments, together with the projections of a few hundred jobs here and there in a variety of other regeneration and development schemes, and Merseyside has been the site of a remarkable 300,000 plus projected new jobs since the mid-1990s. These jobs will replace the 237,000 jobs lost on Merseyside from 1971-96 with more than 60,000 to spare. Or, at least they would, if they were real.
Total employment on Merseyside grew by 87,600 from 1996 to 2008. This is a hugely impressive figure coming after decades of employment decline. Merseyside outpaced all the other major English city-regions for job growth over that period. But it is far short of what was projected by the combination of initiatives listed above. And, after 2008, employment levels locally began to fall again. There were 16,000 fewer jobs on Merseyside in 2010 than there were in 2008. It's a certainty there are yet fewer in 2013 than there were in 2010.
Of course, there are explanations for the gap between forecasts and actual job growth. Job gains in some sectors merely offset job losses in others. Forecasts for job creation are inevitably, perhaps even rightly, over-optimistic (plus there's some 'double-counting' in the forecasts listed above). Also, the projections cited above are sometimes for decades hence and in one case the project never went ahead (the Kings Arena). Oh, and some of the jobs included in the forecasts were never actually going to be located on Merseyside - although you'd need to read the small print to know that.
All of that might be more reassuring if the job growth which has taken place on Merseyside seemed to have anything much to do with the forecasts. Liverpool itself accounted for just under 50,000 of the 87,600 net gain in jobs on Merseyside from 1996-2008 - a dramatic reversal of the 'hollowing out' of the city-region which occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet, it is difficult to match Liverpool's impressive job growth to the descriptions of 'dynamic and propulsive sectors', 'the knowledge economy', 'the creative industries', 'from seaport to e-port' and so on which have typically accompanied projections of job creation. As the chart below demonstrates, the lion's share of Liverpool's job growth from 1995-2008 was in public administration, education and health care.
Indeed, from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, the share of Liverpool's jobs in public administration, education and health grew from 35% to 39%. The same pattern was repeated to greater or lesser degrees in all the other Merseyside boroughs. Most dramatically, the share of employment in these sectors rose from 22% to 32% in Knowsley over this period.
Those behind the economic development initiatives listed above have always been curiously reluctant to list public sector jobs as the primary source of projected job growth. Yet, in truth, job growth in Merseyside after the mid-1990s was crucially sustained by public sector growth and the large-scale relocation of civil service jobs from London and the South East. There's a legitimate argument for a public sector-led approach to boosting employment on Merseyside. But that's not the argument anyone has officially made since Militant did so in the 1980s.
Of course, Liverpool Waters could prove to be the 'game changer'; a development of sufficient ambition and scale that will not only see the projected jobs figure met (or at least 1 of the 3 proffered so far) via dynamic private sector job growth but will also help tackle mass worklessness across north Liverpool. Whether it will, only time will tell. Thirty years to be precise.