How to tackle Yorkshire’s persistent productivity problems: Sarah Tulip

Yorkshire, like much of the country, has struggled with the economic challenges of the last few years. High interest rates and supply chain issues continue to be an issue and the region has been heavily affected by Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and a lack of investment over decades.

Yorkshire ranks in the bottom three regions and nations of the UK in terms of Gross Value Added per hour worked, according to the latest ONS sub-national productivity data, making it one of the least productive regions in the UK.

Instead of thriving, our main cities – Leeds, Sheffield, York, and Bradford - have underperformed over the past decade relative to the UK average.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Even York, with its large financial and professional services presence, is falling behind.

Chancellor Rachel Reeves speaking to media during a visit to the Oval Village project in London, after the Chancellor announced the first steps the new Government will be taking to deliver economic growth. Picture date: Monday July 8, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Reeves. Photo credit should read: Lucy North/PA WireChancellor Rachel Reeves speaking to media during a visit to the Oval Village project in London, after the Chancellor announced the first steps the new Government will be taking to deliver economic growth. Picture date: Monday July 8, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Reeves. Photo credit should read: Lucy North/PA Wire
Chancellor Rachel Reeves speaking to media during a visit to the Oval Village project in London, after the Chancellor announced the first steps the new Government will be taking to deliver economic growth. Picture date: Monday July 8, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Reeves. Photo credit should read: Lucy North/PA Wire

Analysis from The Productivity Institute that compares the productivity drivers and indicators across the UK regions finds that Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East are below the UK average when it comes to innovation-active businesses and those that invest.

This analysis comes from scorecards analysing key metrics across five core drivers: business performance, skills and training, policy and institutions, health and wellbeing, and investments and infrastructures.

Investment overall is one of the biggest barriers to growth in the region – and in Yorkshire, it is amongst the lowest in the world’s most advanced economies.

So, what can be done?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Investment is not just about infrastructure – although with the demise of the HS2 link to Leeds, improved connectivity within the region continues to be an issue – but instead digital and skills.

The 2021 figures in The Productivity Institute score card shows that 38 per cent of the working-age population in Yorkshire has highly skilled qualifications, the third lowest regional figure in the UK. The Productivity Institute scorecard analysis shows in relation to information and communication technology (ICT) investment per job that only Northern Ireland ranks worse than Yorkshire.

This is something business can tackle. Firms must be proactive and receptive to innovation and change. They need to understand existing technologies as well as new ones such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), welcome the opportunities they present and the need to adopt them fast. And they need to ensure their staff are trained to learn, adopt, and implement these new technologies to help drive the productivity of their businesses.

I lead the Yorkshire, Humber and the North East Productivity Forum, based at the University of Sheffield and know our region has so much promise, potential and ambition.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What shines through is that despite adversity, the cities across the region are finding ways to reinvent themselves – and in areas of innovation, becoming world leading across sectors.

There is enormous potential for growth and prosperity, particularly in sectors such as clean energy, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, and healthcare innovation. By implementing strategic policies, fostering innovation, and increasing investment, there is the real opportunity to unlock our productivity potential.

With the right support, powers, skills, and investment in the region, a productivity boost could be accelerated and have a massive impact both locally for its people, creating high skilled work and transforming some of the left behind communities, but also nationally in allowing the region to contribute more significantly.

Sarah Tulip is lead of The Productivity Institute’s Yorkshire, Humber and the North East Productivity Forum.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.