Building opportunity

How social housing can support skills, talent and workforce development

Alexander K, Evans S, Wilson T |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Dec 2022

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Our labour market is changing. For the first time in at least thirty years, the workforce has stopped growing and may be getting smaller – driven by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and demographic change. Now more than ever, employers and government will need to find new ways to raise participation in the labour market, engage people further from work, and improve job retention, security and progression. This report sets out a key potential driver and opportunity for this, by looking at how we can raise employment and address labour market disadvantage for people living in social housing.

It finds that:

  • Social housing residents are nearly twice as likely to be out of work as those living in other tenures
  • This is driven by structural factors including being more than twice as likely to be disabled and more than three times as likely to be lone parents or to have no qualifications
  • More than four fifths of those out of work are outside the labour force entirely – not looking and/ or not available for work, with little access to employment support
  • More than a quarter of those outside of the labour force live in social housing
  • Social housing residents in work are twice as likely to work in lower skilled jobs, and are on average paid a third less than people who live in other tenures
  • Improving support for social housing residents and local communities can play a key role in boosting growth, raising living standards and reducing inequalities
  • Many social landlords are working to do this – through core employment services, specialist support and direct employment and training – but there are a range of challenges in scaling this up
  • A new approach is needed – built on a new plan for jobs, growth and income; a new model of partnership working; and support to innovate, learn and scale up support

Overall, one in seven people of working age in England live in social housing, or five million adults. Social housing is available to support people who may have faced disadvantage and cannot access housing on the open market. The disadvantages that residents face in the labour market reflect this role that social housing plays, but many residents want to work and would work with the right support.

Raising employment for people in social housing was an economic and social imperative before the pandemic, but should be a necessity now – to boost supply and help meet labour and skills shortages; to help families and communities to deal with the cost of living crisis; and to tackle inequalities between people and places.