De-industrialisation in the UK

How have traditional industries declined in the UK?

De-industrialisation is the reduction of industrial activity or capacity in a region or economy, especially of heavy industry or manufacturing industry. De-industrialisation is one of the most significant economic processes to occur in the UK. De-industrialisation in the UK has involved the decline of heavy industries such as coal mining, shipbuilding and steel manufacturing.

During the twentieth century, the UK went from over 3000 coal mines to just 30. The last working deep coal mine in the UK closed in December 2015. The graph below shows the rapid decline in employment in coal mining in the UK due to mechanisation, increasing costs of extraction and growing availability of cheap imports.

The graph below shows the rapid decline of coal production in the UK and the growth, then the rapid decline of imports as our reliance on coal has dropped.

Further reading: The death of UK coal in five charts

What impact has de-industrialisation had on North East England?

North East England was one of the first industrialised regions in the UK. Tens of thousands of people were employed in heavy industry including coal mining and shipbuilding. However, it was also one of the first regions to be affected by de-industrialisation with the closure of coal mines and shipyards.

De-industrialisation also led to a negative multiplier effect. Many smaller businesses that supplied and supported heavy industries closed, a knock-on effect affecting thousands of people.

North East England has suffered huge job losses and a rise in unemployment as factories and industrial sites closed. Many of those employed in heavy industries struggled to find new jobs with the skills they have.

North East England Region Profile 2013

North East England Region Profile 2013

The closure of the Easington Colliery has devastated the town of Easington when it closed in 1993. Over one thousand men were made unemployed by the closure of the pit. Unemployment in the area is still high and many people are on low incomes. In 2018 ITV reported the communities worst fears realised 25 years after the closure of the last deep pit on Durham coalfield.

How has the government responded to de-industrialisation?

Successive UK governments have tried a range of strategies to re-energise economic opportunities in North East England, including:

  • investing in new infrastructure such as roads and industrial parks
  • encouraging foreign investment e.g. Nissan opened a car plant near Sunderland in 1986 which now employs 7000 people
  • setting up a regional development agency in 1999, which was replaced by a local enterprise partnership in 2012 which supports businesses, plans for economic growth and provides training
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