The UK is the most geographically unbalanced economy in Europe. Almost
40 per cent of UK output is produced in London and the South East, and only
those regions have recovered to pre-2008 levels. Median incomes in the North
West, South West and West Midlands are now more than 30 per cent lower
than in London and the South East; in Wales, 35 per cent; in Scotland 22 per
cent. For people in deindustrialised areas and declining communities, there
has been little sign of economic recovery.
• The UK’s high employment rate has been accompanied by an increasingly
insecure and ‘casualised’ labour market. Fifteen per cent of the workforce
are now self-employed, with an increasing proportion in ‘enforced selfemployment’
driven by businesses seeking to avoid employer responsibilities.
Six per cent are on short-term contracts, and almost 3 per cent are on zerohours
contracts. More workers are on low pay than 10 years ago. Insecure and
low-paid employment is increasing physical and mental ill-health.
• The UK economy distributes rewards very unequally. Between 1979 and 2012,
only 10 per cent of overall income growth went to the bottom half of the
income distribution, with almost 40 per cent going to the richest tenth of
households. Although these households’ incomes have fallen slightly since the
financial crisis, the UK remains among the most unequal of western European
countries. Nearly a third of children – four million – live in poverty, and this
figure is now rising again.
But note how they don’t manage to put the two things together. If you have a regionally imbalanced economy then relative poverty across the nation will indeed be higher than in places with less regional imbalance. Absolute poverty might be, might not be, but relative will be. Rather less so when we measure consumption of course given different prices across the regions.
But why is this a problem? London is part of the global economy, the rest of the place a middling N European one. Sure, we could drag London down and thereby have less relative poverty. Or perhaps everyone should be doing what London is, trading with that great global economy?