This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Find out more here


To discuss how you and your organisation can get more involved with The Work Foundation, please contact us.

Call 020 7976 3575 or email


Enterprise Zones could cost £50,000 per job and provide few lasting benefits

Tom Phillips

28 February 2011

With the announcement of a new generation of Enterprise Zones widely expected in the Budget, a report published today (28 February) by The Work Foundation warns that such schemes are likely to be ineffective at stimulating sustained growth in depressed areas. The paper also raises major concerns about the cost of such policies, with analysis of previous Enterprise Zones suggesting this amounted to at least £23,000 for each new job created – equivalent to £50,000 in today’s money.

Do Enterprise Zones work? warns that while Enterprise Zones, tax breaks and other localised incentives may stimulate rapid investment in the short-term, this typically lasts no more than three years before the area begins a long-term reversal back into depression. Prior schemes also indicate that up to 80% of jobs created are displaced from other areas.

Andrew Sissons, researcher and lead author of the report said, “Looking at Enterprise Zones created in the 1980s, there are serious doubts about the wisdom of bringing the policy back. Most of the areas that had such zones are still struggling today – places like Middlesbrough, Speke, Hartlepool and Swansea. Any attempt to redesign the Enterprise Zones for the 21st century is likely to be equally ineffective.

“The key issue is that Enterprise Zones don’t tackle the real problems that local areas face. Providing artificial incentives to businesses in the short-term will have little lasting effect without action to tackle the underlying drivers of competitiveness.”

In addition, Enterprise Zones are generally designed to favour physical investment over investment in innovation. There is therefore the risk that they will not promote the productive, knowledge-intensive growth that the UK depends on, but instead promote an outdated model of British enterprise.

Beyond the UK, comparable schemes in the US provide a similar picture of minimal growth or ineffectual policies. California, for example, is now re-evaluating its Enterprise Zones, which have been costing up to $300m a year.

The paper goes on to argue that if the government is to go ahead with Enterprise Zones, it should consider making them larger in order to avoid displacing jobs from the same towns. Further safeguards might include making targeted investments in skills and infrastructure to ensure zones lead to lasting improvements in competitiveness; and ensuring that zones are supported by local communities and not governed in a way that is incompatible with localism.


Notes to editors:

  1. The figure of £23,000 is taken from an evaluation by PA Cambridge Economics in 1987. This figure is in 1987 prices, and using GDP deflators from HM Treasury shows this is equivalent to around £50,000 at today’s price level.
  2. Andrew Sissons is available for interviews and briefings.
  3. The report a joint release from The Work Foundation’s Knowledge Economy and Ideopolis research programmes.
  4. In a coordinated release, Centre for Cities is also publishing a report on Enterprise Zones. Media contact: Rachel Tooby, 020 7803 4316
  5. The Work Foundation is the leading independent authority on work and its future. It aims to improve the quality of working life and the effectiveness of organisations by equipping leaders, policymakers and opinion-formers with evidence, advice, new thinking and networks. In October 2010, Lancaster University acquired The Work Foundation, forming a new alliance that will enable both organisations to further enhance their impact.