Challenges and opportunities

City-REDI, University of Birmingham

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to provide insight on the findings of the Birmingham Economic Review.

The Birmingham Economic Review 2019 is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and is a high quality resource for organisations seeking to understand Birmingham to inform research, policy or investment decisions.

This post is featured in the full Birmingham Economic Review 2019 and the Summary Review. These are available here.

The city has continued to grow, even within difficult times. The opportunities created from an expanding professional and businesses services sector now with 1 in 5 jobs and 1 in 4 businesses, and an expanding and strengthening higher education base, with 80,000 students and growing. These opportunities can be seen in the redesign, growth and change in the city centre. Productivity levels are outperforming other places with overall productivity indicators performing well and improving consistently in recent years. Investment is fuelling a changing skyline and city infrastructure development with the construction sector leading the economic growth. These opportunities are being realised through a strong mix of developments such as high quality business accommodation, major transport infrastructure and housing expansion, driven by high levels of public and private sector investment and preparation for HS2 and Commonwealth Games. The perceptions of the city are changing, and it’s important to maintain this momentum to ensure the vibrancy and opportunity continues. The continued restructuring of the business base to sectors of the future and a growing number of higher skilled jobs, creates the foundations for a resilient economy, continuing to attract and retain skilled, adaptable people. The city region is second only to London for its diversity with a growing young population with more under sixteens than any other city region and the biggest population group being the 25 to 30 year olds. Birmingham is a city with a young, and growing labour force, not facing the same levels of aging population issues as other places in the UK. This is driving a growing entertainment and social infrastructure in the city, providing for a young vibrant population.

However, there are significant inclusive growth issues and ensuring people can access the growing opportunities is vital. The city region has high levels of people with no qualifications and, although improving, we still have lower levels of those with high level qualifications, and apprenticeships and in work training is being squeezed under the current national spending pressures on businesses. Yet investing in our skills infrastructure is key to ensuring the opportunities are open to all.

We need to tackle our high unemployment rates by developing better pathways into the growing numbers of good jobs in the city. Nearly 1 in 5 households in the city region have no one working in them and this needs to be tackled especially given that the number of jobs available continues to grow. Unlike other cities, with our young population, it is more important we focus on ensuring they can access the jobs of the future or risk facing long term exclusion issues in the city.

We have developed a good understanding of the assets of the city region, in terms of its business base, employment growth, and research and development, with a strong, collaborative evidence base and universities in the region fully engaged in the civic university agenda and helping shape the knowledge and understanding of the city. Partners are now driving how we maximise these assets for the future, through the Local Industrial Strategy, and the opportunities presented from the future of mobility, data driven health and life sciences, creative content, techniques and technologies and modern services. We can start to look at how we lock in our population to these opportunities for the long term. The city has the opportunity to be well placed to be resilient in challenging times ahead and partners need to collaborate, and continue the momentum to protect that opportunity.

Rebecca Riley
City-REDI, University of Birmingham