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Open Access Harnessing growth sectors for poverty reduction: what works to reduce poverty through sustainable employment with opportunities for progression

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Traditionally employment has been seen as a key route out of poverty. People in employment are less likely to be in poverty than those without paid work but the benefits of entry into employment where pay is low are questionable, especially if they form part of a 'no pay, low pay cycle'. For poverty reduction a focus solely on moving into work is insufficient.

In-work poverty has become an increasingly important issue as labour market changes have led to changing working practices (e.g. fragmentation of working hours and zero hours contacts, etc) and a broader polarisation between lower paid and higher paid jobs which impedes progression in employment as a route out of poverty. More 'good' jobs are needed that poor people can access and progress in if more sustainable exits from poverty are to be achieved.

Following the economic crisis of 2008/9 there has been a renewed interest in industrial policy in attempts to stimulate economic growth. Governments have identified specific sectors (so called 'growth sectors' or 'strategic sectors') as a focus of policy attention. The proposed research seeks to fill a gap in evidence about 'what works' in harnessing growth sectors for poverty reduction – in recognition that growth sectors: (1) generate opportunities for those out of work to move into; (2) are the focus of policy to support the growth of opportunity; (3) are more likely to experience skills deficiencies, so encouraging engagement with skills and training providers; and (4) may be seeking to reduce staff turnover through developing more clearly defined progression opportunities. Hence the research addresses two key strategic priorities: (i) tackling poverty and (ii) promoting jobs and growth.

The research had four elements which together synthesise and assess evidence on how growth sectors may be used for poverty reduction.

Element I provided contextual and quantitative analyses of growth sectors. It identified growth sectors, the number and profile of jobs therein and their growth trajectories. It used existing large survey data sets to examine how people move between and within growth sectors, and whether and how such moves help people to move out of poverty. It also identified which sectors offer the best opportunities for progression out of poverty.

Element II focused on reviews of the existing national and international evidence on 'what works' in helping poor people gain entry to growth sectors and how their employment progression can be facilitated. It also examined evidence on how job quality in growth sectors can be enhanced.

Element III involved case studies of practical initiatives to harness growth sectors for poverty reduction. A mix of 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' approaches were examined.

Element IV brought together and tested the findings of the research, emphasising what policy levers are available for harnessing growth sectors for poverty reduction, and how they might be best used. Stakeholders participated in this process of knowledge generation and transfer at workshops held in different parts of Wales.

Together the different elements of the research project, involving secondary data analysis, evidence reviews and case studies, address gaps in:

– existing knowledge on job mobility and poverty;

– interventions to support entry to, progression, and job quality in growth sectors; and

– how public policy can address poverty by facilitating sustainable employment in growth sectors.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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