Birmingham: Structural Economic Change

Birmingham's development to the 1960s

  • Birmingham developed during the industrial revolution from 1700s onwards
  • Big focus on metals and manufacturing guns, jewellery, buttons and brass. Also, famous for Bournville (Cadbury) factory, Dunlop tyres, Austin cars and chemical industries.
  • 1st half of 1900s lots of substantial economic growth, accompanied by continuous population growth
  • By 1950 over 50% of employment was in metals
  • Until 1950s housing predominantly consisted of inner-city terraced housing located close to factories and employment for working (Blue Collar) class. Examples of suburban areas include Northfield and Marston Green with semi-detached and detached housing. These have grown due to improved transport networks and car ownership.
  • The middle classes and transport improvements help drive urban expansion
  • Birmingham has good transport innovations, such as trams, railways and road networks
  • Up until the 1950s population was mainly white in ethnic origin. Employment was dominated by males 60%
  • Some issues with pollution from decades of industrial activity. As well as air pollution, e.g. Sulphur Dioxide SO2
  • Birmingham was prosperous in the 1950s and 60s. Unemployment was below 1%.
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Industrial Decline

  • Between the 1970s & 80s earnings fell from the highest in the uk to the lowest. In 1982, unemployment reached 19.4%.
  • Global recession in the 1970s due to the oil crisis, increased competition from cheaper labour costs abroad and industrial action (strikes), all contributed to Birmingham's industrial decline.
  • Industry was mainly SMEs (small & medium sized industries). Slum clearance forced small premises into purpose built premises, which were expensive
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Post War Birmingham


  • After WW2 housing demand increased dramatically. Social housing resulted in the building of 400 tower blocks. Flows of commuters also increased, with the need for authorities to establish a green belt around the city


  • 1950s onwards significant international in-migration. Most immigrants from Caribbean, South Asia and Far East. Cosmopolitan Area. Relatively youthful population compared to the rest of the UK.
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Recent Regeneration

  • Regeneration- needed due to industrial decline and urban decay. Variety of playersd invloved in regeneration at local, regional, national and international scales.
  • Role of the Government- attracting inward investment e.g. NEC, Birmingham New Street, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). HS2 from London to Birmingham.
  • Role of planning & flagship developments- more public spaces, such as Centenary and Victoria Square. Refurbishment of city centre, pedestrianised areas and Bull Ring Shopping Centre
  • Role of Transport- dramatic changes and improvements in transport infrastructure. Big investment in train station, HS2, road network transport hubs e.g. M1 and M42. M6 toll road privately funded to ease congestion. Birmingham Development Plan (BDP) guides decisions on regeneration up to 2031- dealing with locating new homes, jobs, services and infrastructure.
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