Harnessing growth sectors for poverty reduction: what works to reduce poverty through sustainable employment with opportunities for progression?


Economic and Social Research Council


Dr Paul Sissons

Professor Anne Green, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

Dr Neil Lee, London School of Economics and Political Science


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 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:

  1. 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; 
  2. 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;
  3. Element III involves six in-depth case studies of practical initiatives to harness growth sectors for poverty reduction;
  4. 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 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. 

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