Featured, Features | 15th September 2014

How good are the jobs in your area?

Western economies are recovering – the US unemployment rate recently fell to 6.1 per […]

Photo: Getty


Western economies are recovering – the US unemployment rate recently fell to 6.1 per cent, a six-year low, and the UK’s rate has fallen by a sixth in a year – but at what cost? What is the quality of the jobs being offered by this recovery and where are they most needed?

We can get a sense of this by using the 2011 Census to classifying every job in the country, and seeing exactly what type of work people do in each area: are most jobs managerial, self-employed or routine?

You can find the numbers for your constituency using the drop-down box in the donut charts below. We have grouped all the jobs in the country into one of three classes. Every economically active 16-74 year old falls into one of these or is either a student or unemployed.

To do this we use the Office of National Statistics’s classifications of all jobs. They grade the workforce on an 8-tier scale. We then used this to create three categories for those in work:

High-tier work: Managerial and professional positions

The positions at the highest end of the scale (a ‘1’ in ONS’s books) range from chief executives and production managers to doctors, barristers and dentists. Nurses, actors and journalists are classed slightly below these jobs (rated as a ‘2’), but fall into the same category on our scale.

Intermediate work: Intermediate occupations, “own account” and lower supervisory workers

“Intermediate occupations” account for roles such as fireman, photographer, or flight attendant (a ‘3’). The self-employed (‘4’) are often builders, hairdressers and fisherman, and lower supervisory workers (‘5’) perform skilled manual roles, as, say, train drivers, plumbers or electricians.

Routine work: Semi- or fully routine occupations

The ONS classes jobs such as postman, care worker or shop assistant as “semi-routine” (a ‘6’) and that of bus driver, refuse collector or waitress as fully “routine” (a ‘7’).

The nature of work is very different across the UK. Places range from the student-dominated pockets of major towns to the working-class communities of Wales, or the relative deprivation of parts of Birmingham and Bradford, where nearly a fifth of the workforce is jobless.

At its extremes, Britain is two nations.

At the other end of the scale, a list of the ten constituencies with the most “high-tier” work is filled with the wealth of west and south-west London (Chelsea, Kensington, Battersea, Putney, Wimbledon, Richmond, Twickenham).

One in two people are in managerial or professional occupations in these places, which is 15-20 per cent points more than the typical constituency.

This contrasts with parts of major cities where only 1 in 6 workers are in these roles, as in Wolverhampton South East, Middlesborough, Nottingham North, Liverpool Walton and Birmingham Hodge Hill.

The top ten is filled with the wealth of central, west and south-west London.

At its extremes, Britain is two nations. We can see this more clearly by creating one number for the “quality of work” in each constituency. We can do this by weighing up the different proportion of workers in each area and calculating the “average job” in each place.

This is then measured on ONS’s 8-tier scale. As the graph below shows, the average job ranges from just under a ‘3’ in Richmond Park to a ‘5.5’ in Birmingham Hodge Hill.

This means that the average job in Richmond Park is an intermediate occupation – say, a photographer – whereas in Hodge Hill it is a skilled manual labourer. In other words, many jobs in the former will be of higher quality than an intermediate role, while many workers in Hodge Hill will be in semi- or fully routine work.Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 11.49.33

It shows that the level of work in most of the UK is quite similar, but at either end daily life is very different. To expand on a recent debate, the average job in Cambridge is more than a grade higher than one in Clacton.

In Cambridge nearly 40 per cent of the constituency is in managerial or professional work (“high-tier”), and only 3 per cent are unemployed. Clacton’s unemployment is little worse – at 6 per cent it is in line with the national average – but the vast majority of the working population (77 per cent) are in work ranging from “intermediate” to “routine”, while only 22 per cent are in “high-tier” work.

The average job in Cambridge is more than a grade higher than one in Clacton.

But the comparison is arguably unfair. 28 per cent of Cambridge’s workforce are students. Hosting a world-leading university now in its ninth century helps create a highly educated local workforce.

Regardless, if Ed Miliband wants to create “One Nation” he could start with working out how to offer more opportunities to those in constituencies to the right of the scale. In Birmingham Hodge Hill, for instance, seat of his shadow Universities minister Liam Byrne, 23 per cent of the workforce are jobless.

Predictably, the seat is held by Labour. The country’s economic divide is mirrored by politics. The charts below single out the top and bottom ten constituencies in our index, and note who they vote for.

As they show, those with the ‘lowest-quality’ of work almost all vote overwhelmingly for Labour.

At the other end of the scale, places with the highest level of work usually vote Conservative.

Two vote Liberal Democrat, and happen to held by the party’s two highest-ranking Coalition members, Vince Cable and Nick Clegg.

We will be putting together different indexes over the coming months, and investigating how economic and social stats relate to the way we vote. You can keep up to date with our work by following us on Twitter or Facebook.