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Harnessing Growth Sectors for Poverty Reduction: What Works to Reduce Poverty through Sustainable Employment with Opportunities for Progression


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Total value of project


Project team

Professor Paul Sissons


The University of Warwick, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Duration of project

01/11/2014 - 31/01/2017

Project overview

Employment has been seen as a key route out of poverty, however there are also increasing concerns about the prevalence of in-work poverty in the UK; with labour market changes associated with altered working practices (for example the fragmentation of working hours and growth of zero hours contacts) and an increasing polarisation between higher and lower paid jobs.

Since the financial crises there has been a renewed interest in industrial policy in attempts to stimulate economic growth. National and local policymakers have identified a set of 'growth sectors'. The proposed research seeks to fill a gap in evidence about 'what works' in harnessing growth sectors for poverty reduction.

The project is funded as part of the ESRC What Works initiative. The What Works in Tackling Poverty programme of research is being led by the Public Policy Institute for Wales.

Project objectives

The project will provide a detailed evidence-base for what works in reducing poverty by harnessing employment opportunities in growth sectors. It will focus on transitions into employment, in-work poverty and raising the quality of jobs. The study has four key elements:

  • Element I will identify growth sectors and the number and profile of jobs within them.  Existing large survey data sets are then utilised to examine how people move between and within growth sectors, and whether and how such moves help people to move out of poverty;
  • Element II reviews existing national and international evidence on 'what works' in helping people experiencing poverty gain entry to growth sectors and how their employment progression can be facilitated. It also examines evidence on how job quality in growth sectors can be enhanced and identify ‘good practice' examples;
  • Element III involves study of practical initiatives to harness growth sectors for poverty reduction;
  • Element IV will bring together and test the findings of the research, identifying policy levers that are available for harnessing growth sectors for poverty reduction, and how they might be best used.

The project has a range of dissemination activities built-in which will help to communicate key findings about ways to utilise growth sectors to reduce poverty to national and local policymakers.

  • The project provides an important new evidence base on linking growth sectors and poverty reduction – including the factors influencing work entry, in-work progression, and household poverty.

    Utilising this evidence base, the final project report, ‘Harnessing Growth Sectors for Poverty Reduction: The Role of Policy’, identifies the following priority actions for policy:

    • Local stakeholders working together to develop place-based industrial policy which addresses the issues of job quality in large employment but low-wage sectors.
    • Implementing ethical care charters to improve the quality and standing of social care jobs.
    • Utilising the greater integration of health and social care to develop programmes which enable mobility between the two sectors.
    • Developing and promoting entry and progression activities in sectors such as health and social care and in manufacturing through a ‘dual customer’ approach.
    • Anchor institutions and local authorities implementing internal good practice and developing procurement policies in construction and other sectors that extend beyond employment entry and ensure that suppliers of goods and services provide quality jobs.
    • Encouraging and providing training to support under-represented groups to gain such access to sectors with good opportunities.
    • Work on ‘myth busting’ regarding opportunities in different sectors and to promote different careers.
    • Employers to expand and extend efforts to open-up opportunities for good jobs to disadvantaged groups (including young jobseekers) in sectors typified by higher employment quality such as financial and professional services; and to develop organisational approaches to quality part-time work.
    • Seeking to link local economic development policy and employment and skills policy to target changes to business models and job design in large low-pay sectors such as accommodation and food service.
    • Ensuring the local provision of careers advice and guidance to support individuals to progress by moving jobs where existing opportunities are constrained.

    Source: Green A., Sissons P. and Lee N. (2017) Harnessing Growth Sectors for Poverty Reduction: The Role of Policy. Cardiff: PPIW. http://ppiw.org.uk/files/2017/06/Harnessing-Growth-Sectors-for-Poverty-Reduction-Policy-Paper.pdf

  • Green A., Lee N. and Sissons P. (2017) Growth Sectors: Data Analysis on Employment Change, Wages and Poverty. Cardiff: PPIW.

    Green A., Sissons P. and Lee N. (2017) Employment Entry in Growth Sectors: A Review of the International Evidence. Cardiff: PPIW.

    Sissons P., Green A. and Lee N. (2016) Supporting Progression in Growth Sectors: A Review of the International Evidence. Cardiff: PPIW.

    Sissons P., Green A. and Lee N. (2017) Improving Job Quality in Growth Sectors: A Review of the International Evidence. Cardiff: PPIW.

    Green A., Sissons P. and Lee N. (2017) Harnessing Growth Sectors for Poverty Reduction: The Role of Policy. Cardiff: PPIW.

    Sissons, P., Green, A. and Lee, N. (2018) 'Linking the sectoral employment structure and household poverty in the United Kingdom'. Work, Employment and Society 32 (6), 1078-1098. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0950017017722939

    Lee, N., Green, A. and Sissons, P. (2018) 'Low-pay sectors, earnings mobility and economic policy in the UK'. Policy & Politics 46 (3), 347-369. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557317X15072086455899

    Sissons, P. and Green, A. (2017) 'More than a match? Assessing the HRM challenge of engaging employers to support retention and progression'. Human Resource Management Journal, 27(4), 565–580. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12161

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