Inclusive Growth

We tend to assume that a growing economy is the norm. With consistent growth since the turn of the last century up to the global crash of 2008, many people have come to expect that each generation will be better off than the last. In recent decades, we have faced a more turbulent situation.

The reliability and desirability of continued economic growth is now challenged by some, prompting new thinking about how we might adapt, so that we can live well and at the same time avoid depleting the planet’s resources at the current unsustainable rate. Yet even during the long period of stable economic growth, people and places did not benefit equally.

The North East of England is one such place which has lagged behind the rest of the UK economy, and has experienced numerous challenges as a result, such as low pay, low productivity, deprivation and poor health and social outcomes. The ‘trickle down’ theory which asserts the benefits of growth will eventually reach everyone is now waning, as evidence of persistent and widening inequalities, such as an increase of in-work poverty, becomes hard to ignore.

“economic growth that is distributed fairly across society and creates opportunities for all”.


To address widening inequality, and to find new paths to sustainable economic growth, there has been growing interest in the idea of ‘inclusive growth’.

The OECD defines this as “economic growth that is distributed fairly across society and creates opportunities for all”. It is regarded as inclusive if poor people benefit, or even that poor people benefit more than others so that inequalities narrow. Inclusion goes beyond income, as inequalities of health, gender and ethnicity mean that people and places are not reaching their full potential and cannot take advantage of opportunities.

Aspirations for inclusive growth can generate new ways of intervening in the economy so that disadvantaged regions can stimulate innovation, increase productivity and growth for the benefit of all citizens.

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