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LEVELLING UP

Levelling up the South West

An analysis of the relative performance of the South West economy on a number of indicators
James Blagden
September 7, 2021
Levelling up the South West
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The story of the South West is one of complex inequality that is not easily reflected in traditional interregional figures, particularly around the coast. I hope that the Government will take these findings seriously, as if it is truly to make a difference and level up the country as a whole, the south west cannot be ignored, and indeed deserves a special focus in its own right given the unique situation within which it finds itself.

Selaine Saxby MP, MP for North Devon

 

Levelling up cannot just be focused on the North of England

On many metrics, the South West performs around average among UK regions, but this hides the notable deprivation in certain parts of the region, especially in pockets of Devon and Cornwall.

Much of the work in the South West is part time, and those below the median are paid poorly compared to their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.

  • Almost a quarter (23.2%) of 25-49 year-olds work part-time, compared to a fifth (19.5%) across the UK. Almost every constituency (90%) has part-time employment above the UK average, the highest of any region.
  • The bottom 60% of part-time workers earn less than their counterparts in any other region. The bottom tenth earn 13% less than the bottom tenth nationally.

This is paired with a skills shortage among young people, a ‘brain drain’ as graduates leave for jobs elsewhere, and a greater reliance on less productive, lower-paying sectors.

  • Devon is particularly short on highly-qualified young people. Just 24% of 20-29 year-olds have a degree, the fourth lowest of any other NUTS2 sub-region.
  • Devon has twice the national share of students as its share of degree-educated young people, indicating a severe ‘brain drain’ as graduates leave the county for opportunities elsewhere.
  • Cornwall and Devon are the top 2 regions for employment in retail and accommodation and food, but the median wage in these sectors is 26% and 31% less than average, respectively.

Unemployment rates have fallen much slower than other regions since the Great Recession.

  • The South West has experienced the slowest decline in unemployment since the post-recession peak in 2011. Unemployment fell from 6.1% in 2011 to 3.2% in 2019.
  • Contrast the South West’s post-recession recovery with Northern Ireland, where unemployment fell from 7.4% to 2.6% over the same period.

Connectivity is poor both in terms of transport and digital infrastructure.

  • In Cornwall and Devon, the number of jobs reachable within 60 minutes by car is two times below the UK median, and five times below the median for jobs available within 90 minutes.
  • The South West has almost twice the proportion of homes below the broadband universal service obligation as the national average (4.2% compared to 2.5%). In West Devon, 12.4% are below the USO, the eighth worst in the country.

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