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Geographical Inequalities in the Changing Landscape of UK Employment

Inequalities and Changing Landscape of Employment

In the dynamic evolution of the UK labor market from 1993 to 2022, a ‘hollowing out‘ phenomenon unfolded, with a 12% decline in middle-paying jobs while low- and high-paying jobs grew by 14% and 95%. These changes had profound implications for the geographic distribution of opportunities based on education and occupation.

Key factors include

Occupational Polarization:

The ‘hollowing out’ trend impacted the North and Midlands significantly, with manufacturing job declines affecting areas like Cheshire. The emergence of new high-end jobs concentrated in London and other cities reshaped the economic landscape.

Regional Disparities:

High-skilled jobs demonstrated a strong correlation with larger local labor markets, not limited to London. Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds also showed relatively high concentrations, though less pronounced than in Southern cities.

Impact on Graduates:

Higher education participation expanded nationwide, but graduate job concentration intensified in London. Ex-industrial regions saw less than half of graduates in degree-requiring jobs, contrasting with 65% in Inner London. Graduates from poorer backgrounds faced challenges in reaping educational rewards due to limited job opportunities.

Outsourcing Trends:

Low-paid work outsourcing increased, affecting cleaners, security guards, and kitchen staff. In ‘elementary’ occupations, the prevalence of agency work rose, leading to occupational segregation and potential career limitations.

Urbanization and Job Growth:

The trend toward well-paid jobs concentrated in urban areas was evident. Emerging high-paid jobs clustered in large cities, benefiting from agglomeration effects, and reshaping the economic landscape.

Expansion of Higher Education:

The surge in higher education was accompanied by an increased concentration of graduate jobs in London. The supply of graduates outpaced demand outside London, affecting the equitable distribution of high-skilled employment.

Occupational Segregation Across Firms:

The outsourcing of low-paid work to specialized agencies increased, leading to occupational segregation across firms. This trend, observed since the late 1990s, has potential repercussions on wage levels and career progression.

Impact on Low-Skilled Workers in London:

Despite the concentration of high-paid service occupations in London, low-skilled workers faced higher occupational segregation. The city’s population density facilitated outsourcing and limited exposure to higher-skilled workers.

The transformation of the UK labor market has created geographic disparities, impacting job opportunities and career paths. Graduates from economically disadvantaged backgrounds face challenges, and the outsourcing of low-paid work contributes to occupational segregation. Addressing these issues requires a nuanced approach that considers regional dynamics and the changing nature of employment.

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