People of the UK


The UK's major trading partners

Trade is the movement of goods and services across the world, and involves imports (brought into a country) and exports (taken out of a country). The UK has a long tradition of trading with other countries - as an island, much of the trade involved ships, and coastal settlements developing into thriving ports. In the past, the UK traded a lot with its colonies, importing grain, cotton, and products from the tropics, and in exchange, the UK exported manufactured products (mainly).

Now, the UK's most important trading partners are the EU members, and as a single market, goods can be traded without tariffs between member states. Recently there has been a growth in trade with China, and America is an important historic trading partner, as well as with the Commonwealth.

If imports exceed exports, the country gets a trade deficit which can be expensive for the country long-term, of which the UK's trade deficit is £2 billion annually, but has fallen slightly due to an increase in the export of manufacturing products.

Many of the UK's imports are manufactured products, like cars and clothing, and most items are imported from China because they are cheaper than alternatives made in the UK. The UK is a relatively wealthy economy, so expensive items like German cars have a large market. Petrol products are important imports, providing the UK with fuel and raw materials for the chemical industry.

America is the main export destination, as well as Europe (particularly the EU members). Exports to China are increasing and so are exports to the UAE. The UK's main exports are engineering, oil, and vehicles. The fastest growing exports in 2014 were gems, coins, and precious metals. The UK manufacturing sector also showed a growth in exports in 2014.

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Diversity in the UK

Over the last 25 years, employment patterns have changed a lot.

  • Women are encouraged to work and follow careers: employers offer flexible working patterns and help with childcare, the government provides financial support for childcare to enable women to return to work, and work places are increasingly providing creche and childcare facilities on site. 
  • Increasingly, people are working part-time or are self-employed, perhaps due to seeking a better work-life balance and due to the widespread availability of high-speed Internet access.
  • People increasingly choose to work flexible working hours. Some people combine office work with working from home, some poeple work during evenings or overnight, and this is due to the availability of mobile phones allowing people to work on the move.
  • As the UK has de-industralised, jobs in manufacturing have been replaced by jobs in the tertiary sector. A new quaternary sector has developed with jobs in media, IT, etc.

Manufacturing is largely concentrated in the Midlands and northern England, whereas services are concentrated in London and the southeast, urban centres, and centres of tourism eg parts of Wales.

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Diversity in the UK - 2

The average UK salary is £26,500, but there are huge disparities in income in the UK! Premier League footballers earn £500,000 weekly. Working on the minimum wage of £6.70/h brings an annual salary of £13,000. 80% of new jobs have salaries of less than £16,640 annually for a 40 hour week, a high proportion being in health, education, and social services.

Disposable income is the money people live on after paying mortgages, rent, taxes, pensions, etc. The UK's average disposable income is £17,500. There are huge variations across the UK and within regions. The greatest range is in London (£16,801 in Dagenham but £43,577 in Westminster). Westminster residents, on average, have 4x the disposable income of Leicester residents. The Midlands and Northern Ireland have the lowest disposable incomes in the UK.

The UK's life expectancy is now 81, rising consistently due to better healthcare, diets, and living standards. People now live five more years longer, on average, than in 1990. But this is not equal across the UK. It is lowest in Scotland at 79 years, but highest in the SE at 82 years. Men living in Blackpool live 8 years fewer than men in the city of London. These disparities reflect variations in income and quality of life across the UK. Poor diets and smoking are the biggest risks leading to premature death or disability.

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Diversity in the UK - 3

In 2015 across England, 68.8% of GCSE entries gained an A*-C grade, a slight increase on the previous year. In London 72% achieved A*-C grades, especially in rich London boroughs like Chelsea and Kensington. Yorkshire and the Humber recorded 65% A*-C grades, but in Knowsley, this was 40.8%. There is a clear link between poverty and educational achievement. More deprived areas with low income and high unemployment, tend to have the lowest levels of achievement.

Ethnicity is about groups of people sharing common roots, usually cultural, religious, or nationality. In the UK, ethnic groups tend to be associated with foreign nationalities like Bangladeshi and Pakistani. There is a major concentration of ethnic groups in major cities. London has 3 million foreign-born residents. Residential areas in the UK are increasingly become ethnically mixed. Some ethnic groups form distinct clusters in cities. 

Today, almost 100% of households in the UK can access the Internet, with over 90% accessing superfast 30Mbps+ broadband. There is high availability in the SE and London, but low availability in more remote parts of the UK like Wales, Scotland, and SW of England. There are numerous small pockets of low availability across the UK, even in areas wirth generally good availability, like parts of London and the SE.

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Causes and consequences of development

Development within the UK is not even. There is a north-south divide - the SE is much wealthier than other regions. In fact, over 13% of households have a total wealth of almost £1m annually!

The average number of deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) in England nationally is 77.63 per 100,000 people. In the South, they are below this average, like South Central at 65.59 and London at 74.99. However, the northeast has an average of 87.46 and the northwest has an average of 93.72. High rates of CHD are associated with lifestyle issues like smoking, diet, and exercise. 

Regional averages hide huge imbalances. In London, over 7,500 people sleep on the streets each night, and in the London borough of Islington, the mortality rate for CHD is 114 per 100,000. 

London is the centre of economic activity and wealth creation in the UK as the capital city. It is the UK's major hub for business, finance, and media, and one of the world's major trading centres, and many national and international companies have headquarters in London.

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Causes and consequences of development

As London has grown, wealth has extended out into the rest of the southeast. Many people working in London commute from the 'home counties', choosing to live in more rural surroundings. Cities like Cambridge have become core growth centres.

London and the SE are increasingly benefitting from trade with Europe, and have excellent access to the continent, with fast Eurostar rail services through the Channel Tunnel and several ferry routes and air connections from London airports like City Airport.

Regions in the north and west of the UK are more distant from the European mainland, and despite good transport links with cities like Manchester and Glasgow, are remote and inaccessible. 

Before the Industrial Revolution, many people were involved in the primary sector. In the Industrial Revolution, rural depopulation occurred as people moved to the towns and cities for work. Much of the UK's growth was focused on northern coalfields. Heavy industries and engineering thrivedin the cities and a great deal of wealth was generated. 

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Causes and consequences of development

In the mid late 20th century, de-industralisation began occurring, with industries in the north closing due to competition from abroad, resulting in high unemployment. In 2015, the Redcar steelworks on Teesside closed with the loss of 1,700 jobs, impacting the community and regional economy.

Recently there has been growth in the tertiary sector, and a quaternary sector has developed, with most jobs being based in London and the SE. London has benefitted hugely from globalisation and interconnectivity with the rest of the world.

Infrastructure involves transport, services, and communications. In recent years the SE has benefitted from developments like the Channel Tunnel in 1994, the expansion of airports like Terminal 5 at Heathrow in 2008, and High Speed 1 Eurostar trains operating from London St. Pancras in 2007. Along with this, there are several planned developments in transport.

Crossrail is one of Europe's largest construction projects and costs £15 billion, involving a 100km rail route running from Reading and Heathrow to Shenfield and Abbey Wood. This will link London's key employment, leisure, and entertainment districts, carrying 200m passengers a year and £42 billion to the economy. Crossrail will cut journey times across the capital.

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Causes and consequences of development

In 2015, the government announced plans to create a Northern Powerhouse of modern manufacturing industries specialising in science and technology across major northern cities. This will redress the economic imbalance and attract investment in northern cities and towns. Several transport improvements will support this initiative.

HS2 is a £50 billion project to build a railway line connecting London with Birmingham  and then to Sheffield, Leeds, and Manchester, maybe even into Scotland. It is due for completion in 2033. 

The electrification of the Trans-Pennine Express Railway between Manchester and York by 2020 will reduce journey times by up to 15 minutes and complete the electrified link between Liverpool and Newcastle.

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Case study: economic growth and decline

Salford is located to the west of Manchester, in northern England, and is home to 200,000 people. During the Industrial Revolution, Manchester became a centre for cotton procressing, developing thriving manufacturing and engineering sectors specialising in the machine production for factories. In 1894, the Manchester Ship Canal opened, linking the city centre with the Irish Sea and River Mersey. At the head of the canal a 90 hectare complex Salford Quays was built to accommodate the trade. Thousands were employed in the docks, and a large community became established with homes, factories, and shops. 

In the 1960s and 70s, the new larger ships were unable to use the Ship Canal, plunging the area into decline, with over 3,000 people losing their jobs and the docks closing in 1982. Houses were derelict and there were high crime and unemployment rates.

In the mid 1980s, Salford Quays received funding from the UK's Urban Programme to reclaim the area for commercial and residential use. In 1985, the Salford Quays Development Plan was launched, and massive investment resulted in new homes, schools, and health facilities. The Lowry Building was built in 2000 at £64 million, and includes a 1800 seat theatre and galleries. In 2007, the BBC moved five departments (BBC Sport and Radio 5 Live) to Pier 9 at MediaCityUK, which cost £550 million. This has created 10,000 jobs and added £1bn to the regional economy by 2013. There is also a £90m retail and leisure facility - Lowry Outlet. Salford City Council aims to establish Salford as a Modern Global City by 2025.

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The UK's changing population

census measures the population of a country, and occurs every 10 years. The UK census allows the government to see the characteristics of the population and see if they need to plan funding and public services for the future. 

Population structure is the breakdown of a population by age and sex, commonly illustrated by a population pyramid. Bars are drawn to represent each 5 year age band, and the length of the bar shows how many people of that age are in the population. Bars are drawn for both females and males. Population pyramids help show trends in population, providing useful information for the government in helping to plan for future education, housing, employment, and healthcare needs.

Since 1900, the main population trends have been the decrease in the population of people aged 0-14. Birth rates have decreased as infant mortality rates have declined and increasingly women are following careers. There is an increase in the ageing population, with 16% of the population being 65+. This is expected to increase further. This has occurred as a result of improved healthcare, living standards, and lifestyles. 

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The UK's changing population - 2

In the early 1900s, the population was 42 million and 30% of the population lived in the countryside, engaged in agriculture. Farming was becoming mechanised - increasingly, people were moving to work in factories in towns and cities. In 1911, 30% of the population were aged 0-14, reflecting a high birth rate. Contraception was not widely used and few women had careers. Few people lived to old age due to poor healthcare.

In the mid 1900s, more people were becoming middle-aged. More people lived into old age. After a period of declining births, there was a sudden increase continuing into the 1960s, resulting in the "baby-boomers". 

By the late 1990s, the "baby-boomers" were moving into middle age. Births were low and steady because women followed careers and chose to have smaller families. The ageing population rose due to higher living standards and healthcare. 

In the early 2000s, the birth rate remained low and steady. The baby boomers are now in late middle age, with the number of older people remaining high - average life expectancy is now in the 80s. 

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The UK's changing population - 3

The Demographic Transition Model shows the typical changes occurring in a country's population overtime. It has three lines - birth ratedeath rate, and total population. The difference between birth rate and death rate is natural increase (or decrease), usually expressed as a percentage. It is shaded between the birth and death rate lines. The total population of a country is natural increase and migration

There are five stages of the DTM.

  • In Stage 1, both birth rate and death rate are high as a result of disease and poor living standards. Because of a high infant mortality rate, many are born to guarantee a few will survive. The total population remains stable due to birth and death rate cancelling out.
  • In Stage 2, death rate drops as healthcare and living standards improve. The total population starts growing as birth rate is high.
  • In Stage 3, birth rate declines and the death rate falls before levelling off. The total population continues growing but the rate of growth slows down. Infant mortality is lower due to better healthcare, and women are educated and choose to have smaller families. 
  • In Stage 4, both birth and death rate are low due to healthcare and high living standards. The total population levels off. This is the current stage the UK is in.
  • In Stage 5, death rate becomes higher than birth rates and children are expensive to look after, so families decide to have fewer children. 
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The UK's changing population - 4

In 2011, 9.2 million people, or 16% of the population, were 65+, a million more than in 2001. The UK is experiencing an ageing population. This presents challenges and opportunities.

Challenges include elderly people needing greater medical needs and so greater medical costs; and increasing amounts of care (there need to be more carehomes or children going out of employment to look after them).

Opportunities include elderly people giving up their time to work as volunteers in the community or continue to work in paid employment, a growth in businesses specialising in providing services for elderly people, and people that are newly retired having much money to spend on travel and hobbies.

The causes of the ageing population are the large number of people born after WWII and through the 1960s now moving into middle age. Improved healthcare and treatments prolong life, as does the reduction in smoking and greater awareness of benefits of a balanced diet and regular exercise. Many elderly are well financially so can afford a reasonable life standard.

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The UK's changing population - 5

However, the effects of an ageing population are that healthcare costs are high, there are shortages in places in care homes (which is expensive), and their children will need to look after them, affecting their ability to be in full-time employment. Older people are valued employees as they have high standards and are reliable. They also act as volunteers at hospitals, food banks, and advice centres, or are keen to travel and join clubs, boosting the economy and providing jobs. 

The responses to the ageing population include the government issuing the Pensioner Bonds in 2015 to encourage people to save money for the future. Pensioners receive support in the form of care, heating allowances, and reduced transport costs. The retirement age, which was 65, is being phased out to encourage people to work; the state pension age is being increased to 67, and may rise even further. Pronatalist policies have been introduced to encourage an increase in birth rate to balance the population structure eg cheaper child care, improved maternity and paternity leave, and higher child benefit payments.

Immigrants are people who migrate into a country, but emigrants move out a country. In the 20th century the UK welcomed people from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In the 21st century the UK welcomed European and Asian migrants as well as migrants from countries involved in war like Syria. 

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The UK's changing population - 6

In the year to March 2015, net migration (difference between immigration and emigration) reached 330,000, an all-time high, mostly due to immigrants from poorer parts of Europe eg Poland and Lithuania and from conflict areas like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. People travel to the UK for employment, to study, or see family members. 

In the 2011 census, the top country of origin for UK migrants was India at 700 000, then Poland at 580 000, and Pakistan at 480 000. Immigrants are also from other EU countries and from across the world, like Africa, America, and the Caribbean, or Commonwealth members. In the year ending March 2015, the highest numbers of migrants from outside the EU were China, but from within the EU, it was Romania and Bulgaria, some of the poorest and most recent countries to join the EU. Increasingly people have come from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan, seeking asylum. In the year to June 2015, the UK received 25,000 asylum applications, an increase of 10% on the previous year. 

The social impacts of immigration are the introduction of different cultures and being keen to engage with local communities and that they bring in skills that may be in short supply within the UK. However there may be social tensions and some people feel that there are house shortages, causing social unrest. Some people feel the UK is overcrowded and immigration will lead to more urban pollution and congestion.

The economic impacts of immigration are that immigrants pay taxes to the government and the majority work - more paid in taxes than benefits. Immigrants often take low-paid jobs in farming, factories, or support services. Some immigrants are well-educated and highly trained, and those who study in the UK pay a lot to universities and colleges. However, there are extra costs for healthcare, education, and social services. House prices and rent may increase, and money may be sent home by immigrants, so it is not spent in the UK. Some people feel that immigrants are "taking jobs".

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Causes and consequences of urban trends

Suburbanisation (a change in rural areas that they resemble suburbs) started in the mid to late 20th century, when public transport and private car ownership meant commuters could live further from the city centre. There was a move towards home ownership in the 1970s, leading to private housing estates being built on the edges of cities, and allowed people to have more land for gardens and more public open space.

The consequences of suburbanisation are that local shopping centres have been built, a demand for out-of-town retail parks, buildings in the city being left vacant (could be vulnerable to vandalism and prevent investment in the ity), and increased pollution and congestion from commuting.

Counterurbanisation involves people from urban areas moving into rural areas. Many people move from the city because of the poor air quality, higher living costs, and perception of high crime rates. There are better road and rail links to city centres, enabling people to move further away from their workplace and commute easily. Businesses with offices move to rural locations for cheaper land prices and better life quality for workers. High-speed broadband and telecommunication allow people to work anywhere.

The consequences of counterurbanisation are the creation of dormitory villages,house prices rising rapidly in rural areas outside urban areas (eg Hemmel Hempstead outside London), and gentrification - wealthy people buy up and renovate properties, raising the profile of the settlement and the cost of the properties there.

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Causes and consequences of urban trends

Reurbanisation (using initiatives to counter problems of inner city decline) is caused by the government encouraging people to move back into the city (eg grants being available to retailers to take on derelict buildings), young people moving to the city for university and work; gentrification reviving inner city areas, where housing offers easy work access; and older people needing to move back to the city for better hospital access.

The consequences of reurbanisation are the redevelopment of inner city urban areas which creates new jobs and homes, attracting people; and a lack of affordable housing, leading to expensive apartments being vacant. Traffic congestion will also be a problem due to more residents and gentrification might mean that working class people are unable to buy or rent property in the city. 

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Case study: challenges and ways of life in UK city

Leeds is the largest city in Yorkshire and the second largest metropolitan district at 500sq km. It has good rail links, with only two hours to London, and a well developed transport infrastructure with connections to M1 and M62. It has an international airport: Leeds-Bradford and has a population of 800,000, an increase of 10% in the last decade.

Around 17% of the population are from black and ethnic minority communities. Residents who are non-UK born tend to settle in the Gipton and Harehills wards of the city. In the 1950s, there was an influx of migrants, including 'new Commonwealth' immigrants from the Caribbean. The city has a West Indian carnival every year. A large Irish community established themselves in the early 19th century, spreading through the city after the slum clearances in an area called 'the Bank'. After a second wave of immigration in the mid 20th century, the Irish community numbered 30,000. After WWII, Polish, Ukrainian, and Hungarian refugees were welcomed, and Lithuanians too after the extension of the EU in 2004. Around 89% of the population were born in the UK. In 2013, the ONS estimated there were 6000-9000 long-term immigrants in the city.

The city shows great diversity. Between 1991 and 2011, the ethnic minority population in Leeds doubled, the largest group being Pakistani and Indian. The University of Leeds has 30,000 students and 7,000 students, creating demand for housing stock. Leeds has a high proportion of young people - 18% are aged 15 or under, creating a thriving cafe culture.

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Case study: challenges and ways of life in UK city

Asda and Arla have their headquarters at Leeds, which has a well-developed digital infrastructure attracting new business. M&S opened their first arcade in Leeds in 1884, and grew from there. The 2014 Tour de France started in Leeds, with millions of spectators lining in the streets; this was part of the Yorkshire tourism agency's bid to raise the profile of the city. There are also new developments, and the council plans to tackle homelessness by building affordable housing. The city sits close to the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moor National Parks and other AONBs nearby.

Leeds faces several challenges. Studentification refers to a student community replacing the local community, which is currently occurring at Hyde Park and South Headingley, creating a demographic imbalance. There are often pubs and takeaways at these areas, and crime is high, with reduced pride and appearance of housing. Also, due to studentification, there is a rise in property price. 

Another challenge is waste management; every household produces 590g of household waste per year, which is 166,100 tonnes annually. Leeds council has introduced plans to reduce waste and improve recycling by changing to fortnightly waste and recycling collection, and building a new recycling facility. Social inequality is also significant; in Holbeck over 15% of residents were on Jobseeker's Allowance in 2015, while in Weetwood, it was 0.2%! Leeds has the third highest levels of inequality in the UK. Large retail developments take up investment at the cost of local firms.

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Case study: challenges and ways of life in UK city

There are plans for the South Bank. There has been investment in infrastructure, like a new HS2 railway station. The cultural centre at the old Tetley brewery will support contemporary art, and there will be educational improvements linked to Leeds City College, particularly for vocational courses. A new 3.5 hectare park and open space will be built along the waterfront. Over 300,000 sqm of development land is available. Clarence Dock will become Leeds Dock and contain entertainment, restaurants, and retail developments. Water taxis and shuttle buses will connect the area, reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

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