The first Human Development Report for Greater Manchester

Professor Jill Rubery talks about being one of the authors of the first Human Development Report for Greater Manchester – a report which researched inequalities by gender, ethnicity, social class and locality across the city’s ten boroughs to highlight critical human development issues at different life stages.

Viewing human development through the life course perspective illuminates these challenges as the chances available to individuals at key life stages. The support they receive from the social and economic environment to make transitions can have long-term consequences.

Meeting the challenge of supporting people at key life transitions is critical for Greater Manchester to achieve its stated ambition of a more inclusive growth in which no one is held back or left behind.

Cradle to career

Although socio-economic gaps in development at age five are reducing, they are still very large. But life chances aren’t fully determined by age five. We argue for a ‘cradle to career’ approach, looking at development from 0 to 19 and beyond.

Most of the health inequalities that one observes, and other forms of inequality, are all down to differences in the labour market. They are down to how people experience different stages of the life course and, for instance, the kind of support they receive from the education market throughout their lives.

What the research also showed was that at each life stage, and for the working population as a whole, there was a high degree of polarisation of scores across the local authorities in Greater Manchester. Trafford, Stockport and Bury are the only three authorities where the majority of index scores are above the national benchmark. Not one of the seven other boroughs exceeds the benchmark on any aggregate index score.

Not only is devolution opening up a new political space for rethinking priorities and policies, but also the characteristics of Greater Manchester provide a window on the complexities of the human development challenges and possibilities for British society as a whole. Greater Manchester is a melting pot of communities and cultures, divergent legacies and opportunities and inter-generational as well as inter-area differences

“Most of the health inequalities that one observes, and other forms of inequality, are all down to differences in the labour market. ”

Rethinking investment criteria

The report says that narrow notions of economic well-being, such as Gross National Product, also hides the impacts of uneven growth and distribution on large parts of the society. This means rethinking investment criteria to take into account social goals and outcomes, and rejecting short-term cost benefit analyses that discount the longer term benefits of preventive measures. 

Our hope is not just that the findings of this report will increase understanding of the issues we face in Greater Manchester and their scale, but that the life course and human development approaches that we have taken will provide tools for thinking about how these issues might be approached, and what it is that would count as success.

The study was a collaboration between the European Work and Employment Research Centre at Alliance MBS and the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit within the Manchester Urban Institute at The University of Manchester

The Manchester Urban Institute generates world-class research and acheives high levels of engagement and impact by bringing together work from across the arts and humanities, the social sciences, business and health. The institute has a combined focus on both the global north and global south and is committed to an increased understanding of the global urban condition - past and present. 

Find out more