THE ‘UNCERTAIN INDUSTRIAL FUTURES’ CLUSTER
e.g. Birstall, Hucknall, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, St Austell
Places with ‘uncertain industrial futures’ are among those most likely to have significant wage stagnation – along with a high proportion of jobs at risk of automation, and a high proportion of the workplace furloughed as a result of COVID-19. This latter point implies a higher proportion of individuals working in industries facing uncertainty in light of a second wave of coronavirus or potentially precarious futures in a post-pandemic landscape. The proportions employed in industrial jobs was above average in 2001 or in 2011, but declined sharply between those two dates.
There is less overlap than might be expected with the ‘shrinking and ageing’ cluster, with the focus being on more immediate economic questions. In many cases, although there have been significant declines in industry, a manufacturing base remains. The fear may be that as technology advances, the human element becomes surplus to requirement, more than that the industry leaves altogether.
Places with ‘uncertain industrial futures are not necessarily in the regions we might expect, with the South West and the East Midlands featuring more heavily than some of the UK’s traditional industrial heartlands.
This may be because the economies in question support lighter forms of industry. Telford, for example, saw the departure of a sugar beet factory in 2007. And Washington, a New Town in the North East, saw a number of jobs depart after the closure of a rubber tyre plant in 2006.
The answers here and likely to rely on policies which support adult skills, opportunities, re- training and investment – perhaps including a focus on things like green industries.