Least Productive Region in the Country Exposed; Any Faint Hope That the West Midlands Might Somehow Miraculously Avoid the Worst of the Recession Has Been Dashed by Authoritative Research Showing That This Region Continues to Bear the Brunt of the Country's Economic Misery. Public Affairs Correspondent Paul Dale Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), October 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

Least Productive Region in the Country Exposed; Any Faint Hope That the West Midlands Might Somehow Miraculously Avoid the Worst of the Recession Has Been Dashed by Authoritative Research Showing That This Region Continues to Bear the Brunt of the Country's Economic Misery. Public Affairs Correspondent Paul Dale Reports


Byline: Paul Dale

Even before the credit crunch and downturn hit home just over a year ago our reputation as one of the least productive regions in the country was gettingworse rather thanbetter.

Poorworkforceskills levels, a largeimmig s rant population without English as a first language, below-average qualifications among school-leavers and a continuing failure to convince university graduates to live here when they complete their studies has contributed to a damagingwealth output gap.

In 2005, the difference between the economic output of the West Midlands and the average for England amounted to pounds 10 billion.

By 2007, that figure had grown to reach pounds 15 billion.

Put simply, if the economic output of everyadult intheregionsimplymatched the English average the West Midlands would be pounds 15 billion a year better off.

EvenBirmingham's supposedlybooming financial services sector, thought by some to be the saviour of the regional economy, is under-performing, according to the 2009 State of the Region report by the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The report notes: "The region has too fewbusinesses and they arenot as productive as those in some other regions. In particular, we have a low share of some of themost productive sectors.

"Mostnotable inthis respect are financial and business services, which between them account for around 70 per cent of the output gap."

Sadly, the true picture is likely to be even gloomier. The wealth gapmay have measured pounds 15 billion in 2007, before recession set in, but is likely to have "grown still further" by now, according to theRegionalObservatory report. Just howmuch further, nooneispreparedto speculate.

Gloomy statistics leap off every page: - Almost one-third of the working age population in the West Midlands is unemployed.

-Aquarterofyoungpeopleagedunder 25 are out of work.

- Graduates make up only 23 per cent of the workforce, compared to an average 28 per cent for England.

- Some 14 per cent of adults have no academic qualifications - the highest figure anywhere in the country.

There is a worrying section on the economic contribution of minority ethnic groups, who will form a growing share of the population over the next decade.

Asian and African-Caribbean communities are more likely to live in deprived areas than their white-British counterparts and if these patterns persist this could "inhibit the region's economic performance" even further, according to theObservatory. The report notes: "Nearly75,000more people from minority ethnic groups would need to enter employment to matchthe rate amongstwhite people. …

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Least Productive Region in the Country Exposed; Any Faint Hope That the West Midlands Might Somehow Miraculously Avoid the Worst of the Recession Has Been Dashed by Authoritative Research Showing That This Region Continues to Bear the Brunt of the Country's Economic Misery. Public Affairs Correspondent Paul Dale Reports
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