Economy, Business and Skills

Economy, Business and Skills (December 2019)

Key Messages

Economic Activity & Employment

  • Wirral’s economy provides 116,000 job for 156,000 economically active residents aged 16-64. This means there is a surplus of 40,000 people who cannot be supported by the local economy.

  • Wirral has the second lowest proportion of working age population (60%) in comparison to LCR average (63.2%), Northwest (62.5%) and National (62.9%) averages, which creates barriers in terms of labour supply.

  • Wirral has an ageing population. Numbers of residents aged over 65 years is expected to increase by around 32% over the next 20 years alongside a 6% contraction in the 16 – 64 age group. Although this is typically classified as the ‘working age’ rage, it is noteworthy that nationally there is a continued trend of an ageing workforce.

  • Wirral has a healthy rate of employment with the highest rate (74.8%) in the LCR and is above that of the North West (73.5%) and only slightly lower than National average (75.0%).

  • There is a significantly smaller gap between the rates of male and females employed in Wirral (4.6%) compared to Northwest (8.2%) and National (9.3%).

  • Wirral’s worklessness rate between 2015-2018 has consistently been below the LCR and North West averages, but above the national average. However, in 2019 Wirral has surpassed the North West average for worklessness. The roll out of Universal Credit (UC) in Wirral has impacted on this.


  • The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) score shows that there is a significant gap between the most and least deprived wards in Wirral; 52 percentage points between the most affluent ward’s score (Heswall) and the most deprived ward’s (Birkenhead & Tranmere). Those wards in the west of the peninsula are generally more affluent than those in the east.

  • The four Wards of Birkenhead & Tranmere, Rock Ferry, Bidston & St James and Seacombe, consistently featuring in the bottom performing wards for "No Qualifications", "Participation in Higher Education", "Healthy Life Expectancy at Birth", “Out of Work Benefit Claimants and “Net Household Income"

  • There is a strong correlation between the most deprived areas of Wirral and those with the least favourable economic indicators:
    • 22.6% more people are claiming out of work benefits in Birkenhead & Tranmere ward (east) than Heswall (West)
    • There is a difference of £17,741 in the estimated net household income between most affluent Heswall ward and least Affluent Bidston & St James
    • 49% fewer young people participate in higher education in Birkenhead & Tranmere than in Heswall.

Training & Skills

  • Recent business surveys, [Wirral Employer Survey 2015 & 2017 and LCR Employer skills survey 2017] have indicated that Wirral Businesses are reporting a reduction in the skills gap.

  • The Employer Skills Survey for the Liverpool City Region indicates that Wirral businesses suffer more from shortages in ‘General Employability’, ‘Work Readiness’ and ‘Interpersonal Skills’ in comparison to LCR.

  • 70% of Wirral employers expected a need for new skills in the next 12 months. This was the 2nd highest in LCR behind Sefton (73%) with Northwest and national figures both at 62%.

  • All districts of the LCR saw reductions in 16 to 18-Year-old apprenticeships started since 2013. Wirral saw a 6% reduction in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17, a smaller fall than many of the other LCR Authorities, with Knowsley’s apprenticeship starts dropping by 21% during the same period and Liverpool & Halton’s by 19% respectively.

  • Nationally there has been a 25% reduction in apprenticeship starts in 2017-18 compared to 2016/17 as the apprenticeship reforms have rolled out. The impact of the reforms has been more significant in the North West with a 28% reduction. In the Liverpool City Region, the picture is starker with a net reduction reported of 35%.

  • The biggest reduction in Wirral 2017/18 resident apprenticeship starts has been in the 19 to 24 group with a reduction of 34% followed by a 16% reduction in 16 to 18 starts.

  • 2018/19 quarter 2 data illustrate that across the LCR apprenticeship starts have started to increase in all age groups with the exception of young people aged 16 to 18. Apprenticeship starts for the 16 to 18 cohort have further declined by 11%. The downward trend in 16 to 18 apprenticeship participation is a big concern and appears to be manifesting itself in a reduced entry point level 2 intermediate apprenticeship offer.

  • The headline Wirral schools Key Stage 4 attainment 8 score is above the national and regional averages. At a locality level there exists significant geographical variations to Wirral’s attainment 8 performance with a higher proportion of key stage 4 children in schools in the South and West Wirral achieving the attainment 8 measure compared to those children in the less affluent North and East ward areas.

  • For Key Stage 4 (at age 16) Wirral achieved a 95% ‘positive destination rates which is 1% better than the national average with just 5 percent of its young people not sustaining their destination which is equal to the national average.

  • For Key Stage 5 (at age 18) Wirral achieved a 92% ‘positive destination rates which is 2% better than the national average and 6% of young people did not sustain their destination, equal to the national average.

Economic Sectors

  • Wirral’s economy has continued to restructure with the largest growth in the logistics, comms, health and property sectors; although of these growth areas, only the health industry remains over-represented in comparison to the Northwest region. Wirral’s geographical location makes it an attractive option for logistics with Ferry terminal access and the M53 corridor.

  • Employment within Public administration, automotive repair/retail and manufacturing sectors have decreased relatively significantly. With other significant industries in Wirral such as business admin, finance and the arts also seeing a decline. [Note that automotive repair, retail and wholesale are grouped together by Nomis under standard classification group G]

  • Health is Wirral’s largest sector; employing 24.3% of the entire workforce, this has seen a 15.8% increase (between 2010 - 2017)

  • High value and growth sectors (as identified in the LCR Growth Strategy) are currently under-represented in Wirral.

  • The public sector retrenchment has been a challenge and the local labour market is responding with growth of private sector jobs.

Business Demographics & Enterprise

  • Business Growth in Wirral has increased since 2010 by 1,945 enterprises to the latest position of 8,705, employing around 150,200 people.

  • Most businesses in Wirral are classified as micro enterprises [1 – 9 employees] (88.65%) with the second highest being small enterprises [10 – 49 employees] (9.53%)

  • Wirral has a job density of 0.60 which means that for every 10 residents between the age of 16 – 64 there are 6 jobs available; as such Wirral is behind the regional average of 0.82 and the national average of 0.85.

  • In Wirral 26.4% of all jobs are provided by the public sector, this is in line with the LCR (26.2%) and ahead of the Northwest average of 22.4%

  • Business start-up levels in Wirral have increased by 19 per 10,000 population since 2010 to its current level of 47; despite this, levels are still behind the Northwest rate of 81 and the Liverpool City Region rate of 61; (although this is skewed by Liverpool’s high rate (92).

Business Rates, Gross Value Added (GVA) & Competitiveness

  • Wirral’s economy generated £4.66 Billion during 2015, providing around 16% of the total GVA generated by the Liverpool City Region (LCR). Although on an upward trajectory since 2012, GVA per head in Wirral remains the lowest within the LCR.

  • The UK competitiveness Index shows Wirral ranked 312 out of 379 local Authorities nationally and is the second lowest place Authority within the LCR, just one position above Sefton.

  • When assessing Wirral’s position in relation to Non-Domestic Property Counts it is interesting to see that Wirral has a high number of total non-domestic properties compared to the wider LCR Group, with only Liverpool ahead of Wirral. This high enterprise unit count however, does not equate to performance in rate receipts which suggests Wirral is not maximising its business demography for income.

  • Wirral had the second highest Non-Domestic Rate (NDR) net collectable yield in the LCR group in 2016-17. This is just slightly higher than Sefton which has a similar business profile – a high number of micro businesses and a low number of large businesses

  • Wirral’s collection rate for 2016/17 sat at 97.56% behind Sefton which had the highest rate of collection at 99.26%. All boroughs however show good rates of collection and differences are marginal which suggests little room for improvement in this area.

Supporting evidence
Previous content

Wirral Labour Market Profile (Nomis - Official Labour Market Statistics)

This Wirral profile brings together data from several sources and recently updated. Details about these and related terminology are given in the definitions section. All figures are the most recent available.

Also view

Work status Census 2011

These two short documents provide an overview by Wirral Ward (and comparator areas) of the proportion of Wirral adults aged 16-74 who recorded their economic activity status in the 2011 Census economic activity questions. Go to Wirral Local Insight website for more information. 

Also see

Wirral Economic Profile (most recent)

Previous Economic Profiles - discontinued - do provide historic data