Introducing Professor David Etherington our new Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development

First, I am extremely pleased about joining Staffordshire University as Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development.

My background originally was as a Senior Planner working on urban regeneration in local government for nearly 17 years. The last 10 years was in Sheffield City Council under David Blunkett, the Leader of the Council. It was an interesting time to be in a Labour controlled local council which was taking the lead on the campaign against rate capping and austerity imposed by the Thatcher Government. I moved from academia to take up a Senior Lecturer post at Huddersfield University and then Middlesex University as a Principal Researcher working on employment skills and welfare policy.

Soon after I arrived at Huddersfield, I was contacted by Martin Jones (now at Staffs) in connection with some research I was undertaking on the Danish welfare reforms and labour market policies in the early 1990s. I am interested in the concept of the inclusive labour market, and the Danish model offers some interesting and innovative examples especially given the lead role trade unions play within welfare and labour market policy. This work has spawned a long term comparative research work on the UK and Denmark.[1] My recent research focus on devolution and employment inequalities stems from work I originally undertook at Middlesex University (2005-2007) on Devolution Regional Governance and Deprived Areas as part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) Transforming the Prospect of Places Programme,[2]  and for the European Commission on the Quality of Work and Life in a Changing Europe (2006-2009)[3]. In 2014, when Martin arrived in Sheffield, he contacted me about developing joint work that could dovetail with his ESRC WISERD project. We worked for the last three years on analysing the impact of austerity on devolution and welfare reform in Sheffield[1] (2016) and Greater Manchester (2017).[2] We found that:

  • between 2010 and 2014, there was a £1.19b loss of income from the SCR through the combined reduction in welfare and local government funding, which needs to be compared to the Sheffield devolution promise of £900m over 30 years.
  • The extent of low paid work within the Sheffield City Region comprising the largest proportion of workers paid below the living wage.
  • Leading policy actors disagreeing with these findings claiming that the regeneration of the economies as a result of devolution will compensate for this.[3] However, the devastating nature of these cuts will undermine any devolution deal.
  • We were invited on to the Royal Society of Arts Inclusive Growth Commission Research Advisory Group[4]  making submissions derived from work in the UK and Denmark.

As a result of the Devolution work Sheffield TUC as part of their Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise Campaign (SNAP) approached me in 2018 to work with Sheffield Hallam University (also involving Martin and David Beel from Staffs) to undertake an evidence review to support their campaign. The research involved:

  • A conference was organised in June 2018 to disseminate the interim findings which was attended by over 50 people.
  • That low pay and precarious work is prevalent in largest employing sectors such as retail, fast food, social care but also in higher education
  • Universal Credit and benefit cuts has a major negative impact on low paid workers
  • One of the outcomes was STUC co funding a new union organiser, recruited and employed by BFAWU (Bakers Union) and trained to use their highly successful organising model. The Organiser works with Sheffield TUC and Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise Campaign on a number of different targeted workplaces.
  • Interim report of research (carried out by Middlesex, Sheffield Hallam and Staffs Universities) “Forging an inclusive labour market – empowering workers and communities: an interim report on low pay and precarious work in Sheffield” [1] is currently being edited with a view to launching early in 2019.

[1] E.g. Etherington D (1998) From welfare to work in Denmark: An alternative to free market policies? Policy and Politics Volume 26, Number 2, April 1998, pp. 147-161 Etherington, D. and Jones, M. (2004) Beyond contradictions of the workfare state?: Denmark, welfare-through-work, and the promises of job-rotation, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 22, 129-148 .Ingold, J. and Etherington, D. (2013) Work, welfare and gender inequalities: an analysis of activation strategies for partnered women in the UK, Australia and Denmark, Work Employment and Society, 27(4):621-638, 



[4] Etherington D and Jones M (2018) Re-stating the post-political: Depoliticization, social inequalities, and city-region growth, Environment and Planning A!/file/SSDevolutionPolicy.pdf


Guardian letter published 8 November 2016 on austerity, deindustrialisation and disadvantage