This week, findings from Barclays’ annual report on wealth and affluence in the UK revealed ‘pockets of prosperity’ scattered throughout the country, and announced some good news: none had presented a decline in overall prosperity from the same time last year.
The report uses measures such as average salaries and local house prices to compile a score assigned to every region in the UK. While London and the South East topping the chart is far from surprising, the report also showed that house prices in Cambridge and Bristol grew more than London prices did, and that the latter’s GDP growth per capita was on par with the North East, which was in last place compared to other rankings.
Touching on the trend of an economically, socially (and increasingly) politically fragmented nation, this echoes Trajectory’s recent look at a continuously ‘multispeed’ UK, where factors such as internal migration and access to technology mean that growth across the country is far from even.
A few months ago we talked about how despite the UK’s Gini co-efficient being at an all-time low, indices such as economic growth or life expectancy were different for virtually every community in the country, and progressing at very different speeds.
For example, in the report, Scotland’s small business performance and growth in household wealth were the highest in the UK. However, the report uses data collected pre-Brexit and it has since been estimated that the country would lose billions if and when Article 50 is triggered.
Published on the same day, another very recent example of figures pointing to a fragmented national landscape looked at how levels of unemployment varied in accordance with each region of the UK. Ernst & Young’s analysis of youth unemployment based on ONS figures shows that while overall, unemployment among 16-24 year olds is in decline in the UK, stark regional variations make it challenging to adopt an effective nationwide strategy to tackle the issue.
While the variations between unemployment levels regionally can be seen below, with the North East and London topping the rankings, there was also a significant disparity between city unemployment levels in relation to the region they were part of – so while the South West of England has a lower than average unemployment figure for example (11.8%), some of its cities, like Plymouth had levels of 16.2%.
Although it is difficult to say whether current patterns of regional growth will continue post-Brexit before the UK’s exact exit strategy is formulated, it’s useful to look at regional unemployment from a European perspective as well – we will see that in the EU, the picture is fragmented too. For example, while the UK’s youth unemployment rate is not as low as Germany’s, it is significantly lower than both that of the Nordic countries as well as Southern Europe. Levels of youth unemployment in the UK have also seen a significant decline since 2011, when the global economic downturn had taken a toll on companies’ ability to hire new labour.
Since the only Brexit-related outcome we are certain of so far is that at the highest levels of government, there will be no attempts at brokering a deal that allows the UK to stay in the EU, the future remains uncertain for under 25s in the UK. This is also confirmed by further evidence from the government’s Social Mobility Commission, who found that there had been little growth in the numbers of apprenticeships for under 25s, and parent networks were affected by large inequalities such as families of higher socio-economic status being more likely to be involved in their child’s school activities, or being more likely to be acquainted with a university or college lecturer.
Considering the changes that are happening in the education sector more broadly, both due to the different reality of the labour market today, as well as Generation Z’s consumption patterns, it’s hard to predict how to manage the future of education in terms of equipping this generation with the right mix of skills and expectations for when they enter the workplace.
As an increasingly fragmented UK renegotiates its relationship with an also fragmented Europe (and perhaps the world – see our blog post on the upcoming US elections), we continue to map the increasingly relevant divergences in different sectors, from health inequalities to regional and generational variations in use of technology. With the world becoming increasingly socio-economically and politically polarised, being aware of existing, nuanced tensions is the key to building structures that help both entities better manoeuvre their place in the world.