Nottingham city communities not benefiting from economic growth

Nottingham’s relatively strong economy in terms of wealth created by businesses in the city appears to have little impact on residents’ daily lives, a study by graduate researchers from Nottingham Trent University has found.

Group photo of the researchers
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Hidden Dimensions of Inclusive Growth graduate research team
Rosie O'Halloran, Edward Green, Dilbir Kundi, Ashleigh Muzvidziwa

Nottingham’s relatively strong economy in terms of wealth created by businesses in the city appears to have little impact on residents’ daily lives, a study by graduate researchers from Nottingham Trent University has found.

The Hidden Dimensions of Inclusive Growth project explored whether traditional measures of growth, such as GDP and employment rates, reflect people’s lived experiences and the wider concept of ‘inclusive growth’.

The four researchers, who came from economics, sociology and architecture backgrounds, spent five weeks studying the topic from their own disciplines. The project was part of a bursary funded by NTU and supported by the Nottingham Civic Exchange, D2N2, The Renewal Trust and property management and development company, Double T.

Edward Green, BA (Hons) Business Management and Economics graduate, said: “Inclusive growth is meant to benefit everyone and the common consensus is that it should reduce poverty and inequality. The data shows that, while Nottingham is still behind other areas, GDP and GVA are going up, but it is contradictory to what is happening in our communities.”

The researchers found that although there was a perception that employment is available, the quality and working conditions of the jobs on offer are not sufficient. High proportions of the city’s residents are in jobs that consist of zero-hours contracts, part-time work or casual labour, with women and migrants being the most effected in the ‘five Cs’ industries of caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning and clerical.  

Rosie O’Halloran, BA (Hons) Sociology, added: “The insecurity of this work also has a knock-on effect on social capital. People feel they don’t have access to resources, that they’re disconnected and unable to build relationships in and outside of work due to irregular hours and the lack of collective bonds formed in the workplace. Figures show that we trust each other less in this region.”

Nottingham’s built environment was also considered, looking at how buildings effect the way people behave and whether they create a sense of belonging.

BArch Architecture graduate, Ashleigh Muzvidziwa, said: “Developments are important for a city to attract high-skilled jobs and investment. However, communities can often feel displaced by new buildings. In the case of BioCity’s expansion, the people we spoke to in St Ann’s felt it blocked their view of the city and made them feel disconnected. The skills required to work at BioCity are also out of reach for the majority of local residents, so they do not benefit at all from the scheme.”

The findings suggested that barriers such as the geography of Nottingham city, its range of political arrangements and the practices of large employers needed to be overcome.

Dilbir Kundi, BA (Hons) Business Management and Economics, added: “There are barriers but there are also solutions. There are a high number of SMEs in the city and they need to be utilised better. Managers of SMEs are more likely to be local to the city and strongly committed to their communities, which affects their recruitment and the kind of activities they engage in.  For example, instead of large firms sending staff to paint fences as part of CSR or volunteering initiatives, SMEs are more likely to send their staff to run skills workshops in the local community.”

Chris Lawton, senior lecturer at Nottingham Business School, concluded: “The way Nottingham is today has much to do with the changing structure of its economy and the loss of its manufacturing industry. The quality of jobs has diminished and quite often residents lack the education or skills to match available jobs but are over-educated for low skilled work. There may be job opportunities in the city, but they are not accessible to many residents and therefore growth can have little positive impact on people’s lives and the way this is measured needs to be considered.

“The University funded this project because it is a real issue in our society. It has brought together graduates with a shared interest in people and place and has hopefully changed the way they approach projects in their future careers.”

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    Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. The award recognises NTU for its strong student satisfaction, quality of teaching, overall student experience and engagement with employers.

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been awarded the highest, gold, rating in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework for its outstanding teaching and learning.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly universities, containing some of the country’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is the sixth biggest recruiter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country and 95.6% of the its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving. 

    NTU is home to world-class research, winning The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 - the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of approximately 2,600 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    About Nottingham Civic Exchange

    • Nottingham Civic Exchange is the only university place-based think tank created to carry out original research designed to influence government policy affecting its region’s population.
    • Its research will be carried out with and by the communities in Nottinghamshire, helping to empower citizens.
    • NCE is a strategic partnership between Nottingham Trent University and the RSA designed to build on existing links between the two institutions and combine their long histories of civic engagement to increase the reach of NCE’s work and position it at the forefront of public debate.

Nottingham city communities not benefiting from economic growth

Published on 31 July 2018
  • Category: Nottingham Civic Exchange; Press office; Research; School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment; Nottingham Business School; School of Social Sciences

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