The geographical concentration of labour market disadvantage

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Webster, D. (2000)

This paper argues that British ‘welfare to work’ policies are inadequate given the geographical concentration of worklessness in northern regions and in cities and former coalfields. While unemployment has been converging geographically, inactivity has not. All the ‘welfare to work’ target groups – youth unemployed, long-term unemployed, lone parents, the long-term sick and partners of the unemployed – have closely similar geographical distributions. Official arguments that there are adequate job vacancies everywhere are shown to be flawed. The geography of worklessness is largely explained by the weakness of adjustment through migration and commuting to the loss of jobs in manufacturing and mining, the cities being particularly affected by “urban-rural manufacturing shift”. Policy needs to promote more relevant employment in high unemployment areas, through increased spending on derelict land reclamation, transport and other infrastructure. The case for more supportive policies towards manufacturing should also be considered.
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