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Vital Signs North East: Economy

Our ground-breaking study of the scale, dynamics and needs of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in North East England.

Economic challenges

The UK is not doing too well, and the North East is lagging behind on key measures of economic prosperity. But as a country and a region, we have huge economic potential. A renewed commitment to close the performance gap between English regional economies, in combination with progress on devolution, opens up opportunities to create a more prosperous future. The heavy lifting will be done by government and the private sector, but needs active involvement of civil society organisations if rhetoric on engagement, socially responsible development, inclusion and outreach is to translate into reality.

  • National challenges: low productivity, high regional disparities, ageing workforce, long-term health issues.
  • North East England challenges: long-term economic weaknesses; particularly affected by impact of Brexit and the pandemic; limited progress on ‘levelling up’.

Economic indicator North East England South East
Unemployment rate for those aged 16-64 5.2% 4.3% 3.9%
Economic inactivity rate for those aged 16-64 21.9% 20.7% 17.1%
Median weekly earnings £608.40 £683.50 £704.30
% of people in employment who are self-employed 12.7 15.2 16.8
Number of businesses for every 10,000 adults 704 1009 1134
Productivity (output per hour worked; UK = 100) 82.6 101.5 109.9
Research and development spend per person £278 £606 £820

Economic opportunities

Despite the challenges there are a number of opportunities in North East England via:

  • Research focused universities
  • Advanced manufacturing, life sciences, digital, renewables and business services
  • Thriving tourism and night-time economy
  • Significant cultural, natural and civil society assets
  • Widespread commitment to inclusive growth agenda among councils, devolved authorities, economic development agencies and business groups

The Community Foundation believes philanthropy can have the most impact on the economy in three areas:

Helping ensure everyone can contribute to, and benefit from, a prosperous region

  • nurture greater interest in entrepreneurialism and self-employment
  • support individuals with talent and ability from all backgrounds to become world-class innovators
  • foster arts, heritage and environment initiatives that underpin our tourism offer
  • help those yet to realise potential as a result of disadvantage, focusing on vocational education and skills
  • support social entrepreneurs from marginalised communities to provide wider opportunities for economic inclusion
  • address individual and institutional prejudice and discrimination

Read the full report here

Fostering local economies:

  • ensure local people can access opportunities for well-paid local jobs and training
  • tackle low participation through action on health inequalities
  • support provision of vocational opportunities within civil society

Read the full report here

Increasing civil society organisations’ capacity to be strong economic partners:

  • help so they can and negotiate fair contracts and financing
  • support them to ensure economically marginalised people’s voices are heard

Read the full report here

Vital Signs Reports

The most recent reports from Vital Signs are here