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Theme definition

Work explores the quality of jobs in Milton Keynes.

It looks at the extent to which all residents benefit from the strength of the Milton Keynes economy by having access to secure jobs with employment conditions that support their wellbeing.

Increasingly, employers are held accountable for the quality of jobs that they offer. 

Characteristics of ‘good work’ include payment of living wages, supporting diversity and inclusion, supporting people into work from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and ensuring that people with disabilities and long-term health conditions can access and retain meaningful work. [1]

Cost of Living and Wages

Pay is slightly lower for those who work in Milton Keynes compared with those who commute outwards.

In Milton Keynes, as at September 2022, the inflation rate is 9.8% and the average wage growth was 3% between January and July 2022.

The data is based on costs and consumption in particular cities. [2]

(Changes in the percentages working in different occupations between 2015 and 2021)

Insecure jobs

Job insecurity is common among those working in hospitality, health and social care, education, arts and entertainment, and transport.

These sectors account for a high proportion of the jobs in Milton Keynes. (see table).

Jobs in these sectors are more likely to be zero hours, seasonal or temporary, and offer fewer employment benefits and rights. [3]

Reducing barriers for disadvantaged young people into high quality jobs

Fresh Youth MK was set up in 2020 to provide one-to-one mentoring and empowerment workshops for young people aged 16 to 25 with emphasis on those of black and mixed heritage from deprived and vulnerable backgrounds.

Its aim is to be both preventative, by working with schools, and proactive, through wider outreach with relevant organisations.


Worktree, which has been operating in Milton Keynes for 30 years, aims to raise young people’s career awareness and to help reduce unemployment and under-employment.

It facilitates face-to-face meetings (online since the COVID-19 Pandemic) between young people and those in employment.

Ratings of its sessions by teachers and students indicate that they deliver a high quality and valuable experience in terms of careers education.


Although, on many measures Milton Keynes has a strong economy, many employees are trapped in low paid and insecure jobs. Women and those from Ethnically Diverse backgrounds are less likely to be in the new, well-paid digital jobs. Local employers’ engagement with apprenticeships is limited; and only a fraction actively target/advertise to attract diverse applicants.

The issue of insecure jobs is seen by many of the charitable organisations as having a particularly detrimental impact on  livelihoods in MK. Pay is slightly lower for those who work in MK compared with those who commute outwards.

Apprenticeships aim to improve skills, build sustainable growth and stronger communities, and enable individuals to succeed and progress in their careers. The numbers studying apprenticeships have declined in MK since 2015, although COVID-19 Pandemic reduced the uptake, MK College reported an increase in September 2022.

Vital Thinking

"The gig economy and the low skilled labour opportunities of Milton Keynes are something that has enabled us to flourish within the past ten years, but there is a downside to that – the two-speed nature of the city is becoming increasingly marked.

Lack of work, uncertainty about income or stability of income, limited sickness pay, inflexible employers around childcare – these all add to mental stress as well as a lack of basic income.”


The local economy examines the local labour market, the skill needs in MK for employment and how these are changing. MK has been identified as one of the country’s Fast Growth Cities (alongside Cambridge, Oxford, Swindon, and Norwich) based on economic indicators, including productivity and share of knowledge-based jobs.


MK has a slightly lower percentage than UK average of residents with degree level qualifications, inward commuters are filling the skills gaps. The Gross Value Added per capita (GVA) in MK, a measure of productivity, is in the top 40 of local authorities ahead of the UK average and has grown consistently since 2013.

In 2021 the largest sector was ‘science, research, engineering and technology’, while in 2015 it was
‘elementary business and service occupations, such as hospitality and administration.

Demand by employers has been growing since 2013 for technical skills and especially for specialist digital roles.

Demand has been strong consistently for those working
in education and health.

There is an entrepreneurial culture in MK. There is a higher rate of business start-ups than the national average and other towns in the region.

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