Why businesses are key to lifting people out of poverty - Judith Donovan

I’ve worked in business a long time. Many things have changed during my professional career, and so much has moved on since I sold my company 20 years ago. I have been working as a non-exec director since then, and now oversee work that looks very different to those days.

Except for the fundamentals. Like the people. When founding a direct marketing company, as one of Yorkshire’s first female entrepreneurs, and ever since in my various director and governance roles, I have always found it to be true that the people we work with make all the difference to a business’s success.

Skill, attitude, character. These are what brings a person, a team and a business alive, and can secure a company’s survival when almost all the odds appear to be against it. It’s important that we celebrate the people who make our businesses work, and join together to share expertise about how best to support people who are vulnerable and find it difficult to secure employment. I know, from my work to help ex-offenders find employment, that everyone has something to offer and that business can be a force for good.

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Polling commissioned by the new charity the Jobs Foundation and conducted by YouGov last month confirmed that a third of people in the UK think businesses should currently prioritise creating jobs (31 per cent), paying tax (30 per cent) and training staff (22 per cent). And that’s exactly what businesses are doing.

Judith Donovan is on the Advisory Council for the Jobs Foundation.Judith Donovan is on the Advisory Council for the Jobs Foundation.
Judith Donovan is on the Advisory Council for the Jobs Foundation.

Our taxes – both those that businesses pay in their own right as well as the taxes paid by the people we employ – fund vital public services. Without the contribution to the public purse made by enterprises here in Yorkshire, the economy would have no hope at all.

And the jobs we offer mean that people in Yorkshire don’t have to live hand to mouth. Research by the Social Metrics Commission found that securing a full-time salaried job reduces the risk of falling into poverty by 90 percent.

Of course, the benefits of work aren’t just financial. In my experience, having a productive and meaningful job helps Yorkshire folk to learn and develop their skills, afford a better standard of living, spend time with people from different walks of life, and have a consistent income and schedule which helps with mental health and wellbeing. The independent think-tank the Resolution Foundation announced this year that more than a quarter of adults are dipping into their savings to pay for daily necessities, and one in five people were not confident about their financial position for 2023.

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Thousands of people in Yorkshire depend on their job to help them stay out of poverty, and to give them opportunities to learn skills and live the life they choose.

By creating jobs which bring people out of poverty, offering training to help people fulfil their potential, and funding public sector jobs by paying taxes, businesses offer an economic and social infrastructure for the country and help reduce poverty.

Two thirds of apprenticeships in England are provided by the private sector – the biggest and most effective employment provider in the UK. Three in four UK jobs are in the private sector, with small and medium-sized businesses proportionally contributing most to the economy.

A successful society needs successful businesses.

Judith Donovan is on the Advisory Council for the Jobs Foundation.

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