South West Regional Skills Enterprise and Employment Analysis 2007/2008
6.1 The South West labour force
This section draws heavily on the ‘Economy’ section of the State of the South West Report 2007 (recently published), which has been produced by the Observatory’s Business and Economy Module, and on the 'Social and Welfare' section, produced by GOSW.
An important component of economic prosperity is the number of people in work (the employment rate). Whilst the South West has one of the highest employment rates in the UK (at 81%, the economic activity rate of the region is the third highest of the English regions), the numbers on incapacity benefits remain problematic (see below).
Of those who are economically active, 83% are employed, 13.5% self-employed and 3.5% unemployed. The economically inactive account for nearly 19% of the working age population regionally, which is lower than the national average. South West England’s labour market is in a comparatively healthy position. Its unemployment rates are proportionately lower regionally than nationally, whilst employment and self-employment rates are higher.
Since 2001, the total numbers of people in employment increased by approximately 1%, however, the employment rate fell by 1.1%. This apparent dichotomy was due to a faster increase in population than employment.
Employment rates vary across the sub-region. In 2005, Plymouth recorded the lowest employment rate (71.8%), and South Gloucester recorded the highest (84.4%). Generally, the trend is for higher rates in rural areas and in the northern sub-regions; and lower rates in urban and southern sub-regions. The lowest levels of employment were recorded in Bristol, Plymouth and Torbay and the highest in South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.
A higher proportion of South West England working age residents work part time when compared with the national figures. Female workers in South West England are over four times more likely than males to be employed part time.
More recently, both national and regional labour markets have experienced a difficult period. Slowing productivity growth, a rising population and continued global pressures have led to a decline in economic activity rates and increased unemployment.
In terms of the industrial composition of employment, the South West has the following features:
In future, the region faces a number of labour market
challenges. It has an ageing population that will require labour market
to accommodate the changing demographic. The regional industrial and
occupational structure has resulted in relatively high levels of employment
in occupations and industries with comparatively low levels of productivity.
The region performs inconsistently, with some sub-regions’ labour
markets and earnings performing strongly but others facing significant
challenges; particularly some urban areas. Certain groups are less engaged
with the labour market (see Self-employment) and part-time working is
more prevalent for all groups resulting in an under-utilised labour force.
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