A third of people living in some North East towns and cities are still employed in low paid work, despite growth in top-ranking jobs elsewhere in the country.
Around 30% of the workforce in Sunderland work in low paid occupations such as cleaning, bar work, labouring and sales.
A new report released by the Centre for Cities and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation described Sunderland as an ‘at risk city’ where people are struggling to lift themselves out of low-paid work and subsequent poverty.
With vanishing middle management jobs, city economies such as those in the North East are becoming increasingly polarised.
The organisations said that created economic stasis for many families and has a long term negative impact on the national economy.
Only Newcastle has seen significant growth in high paid occupations between 2001 and 2011, with 30,000 people entering into higher level positions in management and knowledge based industries.
“There’s no doubt that low-paying jobs have always existed, and that some UK cities continue to see significant growth in high-paid jobs,” said Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the Centre for Cities.
“But what has changed over the past few decades is that, in many cities, the pathways to upward mobility have been severely eroded, as their jobs markets polarise and the stable jobs of the ‘middle’ begin to slip away.”
“For far too long, successive governments have focused on the number, not the quality of jobs being created – but the trend towards low-paying, insecure employment is bad for workers, bad for cities, and bad for the national economy,” she added.
Both Newcastle and Sunderland’s labour markets became more polarised between 2001 and 2011. While there hasn’t been a significant increase in people entering low paid work, the fact few people can move beyond that sector means household incomes have had a long period of stagnation.
In Newcastle, for every 10 high paid jobs created between 2001 and 2011, six low pay jobs were created and two intermediate jobs were lost, while in Sunderland, for every 10 high pay jobs created, seven low pay jobs were created and one intermediate job was lost.
A lead researcher for the Centre for Cities organisation said intermediate jobs remain in Sunderland due to the Nissan factory being based on the outskirts of the city.
Ms Julia Unwin CBE, the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Economically weak cities are home to increasing concentrations of poor working households, whilst two-tier economies are emerging in our more successful urban centres.
“Job quality is a burning issue, particularly in low skill, low wage sectors such as retail, hospitality and care.
“We need new thinking if we are to crack the problems around training, progression at work and job security that seem to keep increasing numbers of people stuck in entry level jobs.”