Power should be devolved to workers and local communities to help bridge a "great regional divide" on jobs, a new report urges.
A study by the TUC found that Britain was "riven" with inequalities, with men's pay in older industrial areas £200 a month below the national average.
Children in the North East are twice as likely to live in workless households compared to the South East.
And two-thirds of the jobs created in the North East since 2011 have been insecure forms of work such as zero-hour contracts, research showed.
There were also inequalities within areas, said the report, adding that despite the overall wealth of London, 27% of people in the capital live in poverty.
The inequalities are the result of failing economic policy and too much power resting with central government, rather than workers and local communities, said the TUC.
Its report, Great jobs In Great Places, highlights how central government is responsible for 72% of all public expenditure in the UK, compared to 35% in France and 19% in Germany.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Too many people in Britain have been left behind.
"Whole communities have been abandoned for a generation without the investment they need to build a strong local economy.
"It has left millions of people stuck in dead-end jobs that don't pay a decent wage.
"In the places we looked at, there was no shortage of opportunities to create stronger industries and great jobs.
"But to unlock the potential of every part of the UK, we need to change how the economy works. That means devolving power and funding back to working people and their local communities.
"The Government has talked a lot about industrial strategy. We need new investment to bring infrastructure, skills and great jobs to the parts of the country that need them most."
The report, based on studies in Tees Valley, Liverpool, Norfolk and Suffolk, called for regional groups to be set up involving business, unions and government, to discuss how to drive up pay and productivity.
A Government spokesman said: "The Government is building an Industrial Strategy to address issues of uneven growth around the UK, and to consider how we can further strengthen our world-class businesses, sectors and regions so they can reach their full potential.
"This will ensure that every part of the UK is firing on all cylinders to deliver prosperity that is shared right across the country."