As a new study claims to expose cracks in the foundations of the government’s so-called “Northern Powerhouse”, an internal restructuring by the telecommunications giant Vodafone could see hundreds of jobs moving out of the south of England, and into Scotland and the north.

As wealth and jobs remain concentrated around the capital, the fear of being left behind in a two-speed economy is a very real concern for many living in the regions of the United Kingdom. This week, a new study highlighted findings which suggest workers in the north of England are increasingly reliant upon unsecured employment: positions without a set number of hours or consistent level of pay. The findings will cast some doubts over government claims of creating a northern Powerhouse to drive the UK economy.

The findings are the culmination of a five year investigation conducted for the Trades Union Congress in the North East of England; the figures will be seen to underline doubts already expressed by many recruiters familiar with the employment landscape of the area.

The TUC analysis was able to identify a 60,000 growth in the workforce across the North East of England, between 2011 and 2016. This figure is in line with the government’s own data. However, of this number the study identified 40,000 cases of recruits working in zero-hours contracts, or in roles that met only the legal minimum for employee rights and pay.

The reliance on unsecured work was not an issue affecting only newer recruits. The TUC found that 124,000 – or one out of every nine workers – in the North East is currently engaged in a position that would qualify as “insecure”.

Uncertainty in regional jobs growth
There has been a marked change in employment norms since the study began collecting data. In 2011, just 7.6% of workers in the North East experienced job insecurity – the healthiest in all of England, with only Scotland reporting fewer unsecured jobs. Today, the figure of 10.7% has become the highest in the country. Meanwhile, recruiter confidence within Scotland has also begun to slump, as we reported last month.

The data also exposes a disparity in job creation between London and the regions: while 67% of new roles in the north come with little or no employee assurances, just 17% of jobs created in London in the same period recorded a similar level of insecurity.

It is the latest in a series of blows to the UK government, as it attempts to paint a picture of good health for the nation’s economy as it goes in to Brexit negotiations. The study follows a U turn from tax changes announced in last week’s budget, that were then abandoned less than seven days later.
Vodafone plans to hit The North
Meanwhile, a more positive note for the region has been struck by Vodafone, as it announced that hundreds of its UK-based jobs could be heading north as part of an internal restructuring process. Having confirmed last week (March 10) that several hundred jobs were to be lost from its Berkshire headquarters in Newbury, the global telecommunications giant announced just days later that as many as 1,200 new and existing roles could be created at its existing customer services centres in Manchester, Glasgow, Stoke on Trent, and Newark.

The company also aims to develop its relationships with third-party customer services partners. The planned expansion would create up to 900 new positions, with as many as 600 of these heading to Newcastle Upon Tyne. Other regions likely to see a growth in staffing numbers included Cardiff, and the West of Scotland.

Vodafone’s move towards a decentralised structure will be seen as a positive step for recruiters in parts of the country that have been hit the hardest by the economic slowdown, and where recovery has been slower to take root.