TACKLING the issues of high employment but low wages linked to tourism and agricultural jobs is to be discussed by North Yorkshire’s independent Rural Commission.

Following on from last month’s session on food, farming and the environment – the eight commissioners will next meet on January 23 to hear from individuals, businesses and organisations on the issues and opportunities for a thriving economic future for the county.

Supported by North Yorkshire County Council, the commission consists of experts in rural economics, policy, community led ventures, agriculture and the environment, business and media.

The Very Rev John Dobson DL, The Dean of Ripon, chairman of the rural commission, said: “ (In December) we heard a powerful mix of evidence and creative vision from farmers, rural organisations and agricultural businesses. All of the submissions received are being carefully examined.

“Next we hope to hear ideas and opportunities that will help us address the big issues of retaining and attracting young talent, business diversification, equality of opportunity, skills and training and a broad range of other subjects linked to jobs and the economy.

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to send us evidence and to present to the commissioners and to encourage people to grasp this opportunity to help us to support our county’s most rural communities to grow and prosper in the future.”

North Yorkshire has a relatively healthy and diverse economy which largely mirrors the national picture in terms of productivity and jobs.

Employment levels are higher than the national average at 81.9 per cent compared to 78.9 per cent, while average weekly pay is below the national average, but above the regional average in Yorkshire and Humber. Productivity per head of population is below national averages but also above that of the region.

Agriculture, manufacturing, accommodation and food are higher both in terms of productivity and employment value while information and communications and financial services are below average.

House prices are relatively high particularly when compared to wages with Ryedale and Harrogate being the least affordable districts in the North of England to buy a home.

In 2018, average weekly earnings in North Yorkshire were £531, slightly higher than in Yorkshire and Humberside, £520, but considerably lower than the national average, £571.

Across North Yorkshire as a whole, there is says the commission, ‘substantial variation’ in average weekly incomes.

About 11 per cent of workers in the county work in the manufacture of food, which accounts for about half of the sector, compared to eight per cent nationally.

There is a higher proportion of self employed people in the county, some 15.1 per cent, compared to 10.7 per cent nationally, and the highest number of private enterprises, 6,410, is in agriculture, food and fisheries, with construction second with 3,425.

This, says the commission, probably reflects a large number of small scale producers with very low employees, just two on average, but reinforces the view of a rural economy which includes a large number of micro enterprises working in agriculture, forestry and fishing related activities but with low margins of return or for relatively low wages.

The commission will be examining low wages versus high housing costs, Low wages versus high housing costs, the future of farming in local and national supply chains, tourism and the low wage economy, the role of technology, history and heritage, the future of market towns, and distances travelled to work.

Representations, before January 13, can be emailed to :RuralCommission@northyorks.gov.uk