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170 Years of Industrial Change across England and Wales

Over the last 170 years the industries we work in have changed. Developments in technology and other social factors have changed the way we work and the types of work that we do. Leading us to the shape of the industrial landscape today where, in 2011, services were the dominant industries in England and Wales and less than one in 100 people worked in agriculture.

Key Points:

  • At every Census from 1841, the percentage of people working in agriculture and fishing has declined. In 1841, 22% of people worked in this industry and by 2011 this had fallen to less than 1%.

  • Manufacturing was the most dominant industry in 1841 accounting for 36% of the workforce, followed closely by services at 33%. The expansion of services and decline in manufacturing meant that in 2011, 9% worked in manufacturing and 81% worked in services.

  • Women are more likely to work in services than men, and in 2011, 92% of women in work were within the service sector. This compares with 71% of men working within services.

  • In England and Wales in 2011, 92% of women in work were employed in the service industry.

  • Across England and Wales, Corby in the East Midlands had the highest percentage of their working resident population within manufacturing at 24%.

  • Powys in Wales had the highest concentration of residents within agriculture and fishing, at 9%, with the area being a mountainous rural one with large acres of farmland.

The population has changed considerably in recent history. In the 1911 Census a population of 36.1 million was recorded for England and Wales. This number grew by almost two-thirds over the next 100 years to 56.1 million people in 2011. Historically, the types of work that we do have also changed. Globalisation, technological advances and innovation are amongst the influences which have changed the shape of the economy. Since the 1841 Census, considered to be the first modern UK census, new industries have emerged while others have declined.

Over the past 170 years, the distribution of workers in each industry has changed. The nature of the work within the industries has also changed. The Agriculture and fishing industry has been in decline, as has the Manufacturing industry. During this time the Service industries have been increasing to levels that dominate the economy nowadays. The percentage working in the Energy and water sector has remained relatively small throughout, although it rose and then fell over the period. The percentage in the Construction industry has remained fairly consistent throughout. The 2011 Census reported that a total of 26.5 million people in England and Wales were working.

1841-1901

In 1841, over one in five workers (22%) were in the Agriculture and fishing industry. In 1901 this had fallen to 9%, fewer than one in eleven workers. Those working in Energy and water rose from 3 to 6% of the working population, between 1841 and 1901, as the demand for coal increased from the steam powered industrial revolution. In 1841, a third of the working population (36%) worked in manufacturing and in 1901 this was at a similar rate of 38%. Workers in construction increased from 5% in 1841 to 7% in 1901. Those working in the service industry rose from 33 to 40% over this time.

1901-51

Great Britain continued to change with the social and economic impact of two world wars in this period. The Agriculture and fishing industry declined. In 1951, one in twenty workers (5%) were employed in this industry in England and Wales. The other industry sectors remained fairly constant. The manufacturing and construction industries both fell slightly, to 36% and 6% of workers respectively. The service industry and energy and water sectors rose to 46% and 7% of workers respectively.

1951-2011

It is between 1951 and 2011 that the biggest changes to the service and manufacturing industries was seen. The percentage of workers in the service industries increased at every census in the 60 year period. In 2001, three out of four workers (76%) worked in services. In 2011 this has risen again and four out of five (81%) working people were in the service sector. This is opposite to the trend that can be seen in the manufacturing industry. In 2001, 15% of workers were in manufacturing, less than half of what it had been in 1951. In 2011 this has fallen once more to one in 11 working people (9%) in the industry. Over the 60 years, agriculture and fishing declined further to 1% of working people. The energy and water sector also gradually declined to 1% of the working population in 2011. The construction industry remained relatively steady and was 8% of the working population in 2011.

 

Decline of the agricultural industry

From the 1830’s onwards, after the invention of the high pressured steam engine in 1801, steam powered railways played an increasing part in the changing landscape of Great Britain’s economy. Cities and towns became better connected as the construction of a national railway network began. Between 1848 and 1899 the length of railway in Great Britain tripled, from less than 5,000 miles to over 18,000 miles. Many of those who built the railways did not return to their rural lifestyles after completing their work and they remained in the cities, which in part decreased the numbers engaged in agricultural activities.

In 1841, over one in five workers (22%) were in the Agriculture and fishing industry. The industry has been in steady decline over the last 170 years and is currently the smallest in England and Wales. In 2011, less than one in a hundred employed people (1%, 0.2 million people) worked in this industry.
Elsewhere in the world, by 1875 the network of steam-powered railways and ships allowed the United States to export the surplus of cereals it produced. Also around this time, the development of reliable refrigeration technology meant that cheaper meat and other agricultural products could be transported from Australia, New Zealand and South America to Britain and stored here. This increase in importing food reduced the amount of agricultural activity that was required within Great Britain.
The development, and increased use, of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides in agriculture meant that fewer crops failed. Whilst, better storage technologies meant that more produce could be stored in larger quantities for longer without spoiling. The use of machines within agriculture decreased the need for as many workers as previously were required. From the digging plough in 1885 to the increased use of tractors, mechanical threshers and combine harvesters throughout the 20th century, the advances in technology meant that fewer workers could collect more produce from a larger area of land. In 1900 one agricultural worker fed around 25 people in Great Britain, by 2010 one agricultural worker fed 200 people. Increased globalisation and dependence on imports to supply the increasing British population with the food it needs has run alongside the decline in the Agriculture and fishing industry within England and Wales.

Changes in manufacturing industry

Technological advances and better transport links also had an impact on the manufacturing industry. In 1841, a third of the working population (36%) worked in manufacturing but this had fallen to just 9% by 2011. The discovery of a more efficient way to produce steel from pig iron led the advances within the iron and steel industry. Moreover, the expanding infrastructure meant that goods and fuel could be transported around and bought at more affordable rates, production machinery made it possible for factories to employ hundreds of people, shifting people from rural areas and creating a new way of living where towns were made up of a high density of workers. The advances made within the production of steel and the machinery and infrastructure that could be created with it fuelled advances in the textile manufacturing industry. The textile industry in Britain became the world leader in the 1800’s.

However, over time, technological advances have allowed process lines to become more mechanised and require fewer workers to operate them. Heavy industries, producing large volumes of low-value goods, such as steelmaking, have become more efficient and so are able to produce the same amount of output from fewer manufacturing sites employing fewer people. These heavy industries have been replaced in part by smaller industrial units producing high-value goods, such as the aerospace and electronics industries.

The speed at which globalisation has affected industries has increased over the last half-century. Foreign markets have become more competitive and increased globalisation offered cheaper labour and plant facilities abroad, making imported goods more affordable and adversely affecting the manufacturing industry within England and Wales. This contributed to reducing the manufacturing workforce and improvements in communication and transport links have created an increased interdependence for trading goods and services throughout the world.

Expansion of the service industries


A service industry is where services are provided rather than a good being produced. This industry has grown considerably over the last 170 years. In today’s categorisations, the service industries comprise:

  • distribution, hotels and restaurants (which includes wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles, and accommodation and food service activities);  

  • transport and communication (which includes transport and storage, and information and communication);

  • banking, finance and insurance (which includes financial and insurance activities, real estate activities, professional, scientific and technical activities, and administrative and support service activities); 

  • public administration, education and health (which includes public administration and defence; compulsory social security, education, and human health and social work activities); and

  • other services (which includes arts, entertainment and recreation, other service activities, activities of households as employers; undifferentiated goods - and services - producing activities of households for own use , and activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies). 

In 1841, one-third of working people (33%) worked in the services industries. In 2011, four out of five workers (81%) were employed in service industries. However, the types of services people were employed in have changed throughout this time. In 1841, almost one in five working people (18%) were employed in domestic offices and personal services, roughly half of everyone working in service industries. In 2011, the biggest industry group was wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles, with 4.2 million people, 16% of the working population and about one fifth of everyone working in service industries.

The discovery of penicillin in 1928 changed medicine and healthcare. Since then and with further research into antibiotics, there has been a dramatic change in the figures for deaths and illness from infectious diseases. Antibiotics have also provided safe and effective treatments for the wide range of infections that were a daily problem in hospitals and general practice. In 2011, 13% of working people worked in “Human health and social work activities”. This is the second biggest industry. The NHS was created in 1948 and is now the largest publicly funded health service.
Education has also changed considerably over the 170 years up to 2011. One milestone in education was the 1902 Education Act, which created local education authorities. The act came at a time when, with mass education developing fast elsewhere, Britain needed an educated workforce if it was to maintain its position in world trade. As a result of the Act, there was a massive expansion in the building of secondary schools in the years up to 1914.  Further changes came in 1944, when the school leaving age was raised to 15 and in 1973 when the school leaving age was raised to 16.

The development of computers has radically changed the way that a lot of people in England and Wales work. The first programmable electronic computer was the Colossus, built in 1944. More recently, the internet has also changed the way businesses can communicate and enabled the service industries to expand and grow. Multinational businesses that span continents can communicate and operate more easily. Some companies also now exist solely on the internet which has changed the way companies do business and the effect they have on industries. As technology has developed and changed, classifications of industries have had to also develop and change to allow for jobs that previously did not exist.

The industries in which people work in 2011

The concentration of industries varies across the regions of England and Wales. In this next section we will look at each industry sector and the local authority areas that have the highest percentage of workers employed in each industry. Industries can be grouped in different ways depending on the level of detail one wishes to look at. The following analysis looks groups of industries broken down into the 2007 Standard Industrial Classifications.

The census is collected from where people live rather than where their place of work is. The geographical information in this paper is based on where people live. It, therefore, doesn’t take account of where people travel to a different area to do their work. Information on industry that is collected from different sources may look different at lower geographical levels if it is based on where the places of work are, rather than where people who do that work live.



Public administration, Education and Health

In 2011, the largest industry sector in England and Wales was public administration, education and health, in which 28.4% of workers were employed. This sector is also the largest employer of women, in which two out of every five employed women worked.
The industry groups within this sector are human health and social work activities, with 12.5% of the working population, education, with 9.9%, and public administration and defence; compulsory social security, with 6.0%.

Denbighshire in Wales is the area with the highest concentration of residents who work in human health and social work activities, with 19.1% of their working people. Not surprisingly, Oxford in the South East, with two universities, is the area with the highest concentration of residents working in education, at 23.6%. Richmondshire in Yorkshire and The Humber is the area with the highest concentration of residents who work in public administration and defence; compulsory social security, at 26.0%. There is a large military base in this area.

Distribution, Hotels and Restaurants

Distribution, hotels and restaurants was the second largest industry sector and represented around 21.5% of people in work. This sector comprises of two groups, the bigger being wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles, accounting for around 15.9% of working people. The other group in this sector is accommodation and food service activities, with 5.6%.
Corby in the East Midlands is the area for which Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles has the largest percentage of residents employed at 23.5%. The Isles of Scilly in the South West is the area for which Accommodation and food service activities has the largest percentage of residents employed at 23.9%.

As these estimates are based on where people are resident, there are many people who may live in one area and work in another. London is both a popular tourist destination and an important centre for business and there are many hotels and restaurant in the area. However, the wages within the sector mean that the majority of workers in the industry may not be able to live in the areas that have the hotels and restaurants. For accommodation and food service activities in London, in 2012, the average hourly wage excluding overtime was £7.50, whereas the average hourly wage excluding overtime across all industries in London was £15.70. Newham, a more affordable area of London, has 11.8% of workers in accommodation and food service activities. This is an area from where people may commute to work in hotels and restaurants elsewhere in London.

Banking, Finance and Insurance

Banking, finance and insurance is the third largest industry sector with 17.2% of working people employed within it. London is the region that dominates this sector. The top 10 local authority areas that have the largest percentage of residents working in banking, finance and insurance are all in London. The City of London tops the list where over half, or 54.2%, of all people employed work in this industry sector. It is also a relatively small area.  The concentration of workers within London in this industry contributes to the fact that in six of the other eight main industry sectors, it is local authorities in London that have the lowest percentage of residents working within them, with the City of London being lowest in four of the industrial sectors.
This sector is made up of the following industries: professional, scientific and technical activities, with 6.6% of workers; administrative and support service activities at 4.9%; financial and insurance activities at 4.3% and real estate activities at 1.4%. For professional, scientific and technical activities the local authority with the highest concentration of residents working in this group is the City of London with 26.6%. For administrative and support service activities the local authority with the highest concentration of residents working in this group is Newham, with 8.8%. For financial and insurance activities, the local authority with the highest concentration of residents working in this group is the City of London with 22.5% of the working population. For real estate activities, the local authority with the highest concentration of residents working in this group is Kensington and Chelsea with 3.4%. The City of London and Kensington and Chelsea are particularly affluent areas. This is reflected in the earnings of people in this industry in London. In 2012, the average hourly pay, excluding overtime, for employees in all industries in the UK was £11.21. In London for financial and insurance activities it was £27.80.

Manufacturing

Corby in the East Midlands was the local authority which had the highest percentage of residents working in the manufacturing industry, at 23.7%. Until the 1980’s there was a thriving steel works in Corby but this was decommissioned which led to high unemployment in the area. To alleviate this situation, an enterprise zone with industrial parks was established in the area to try to create new job opportunities and reignite the local economy.
Within England and Wales, 8.9% of people worked within manufacturing in 2011 with the breakdown more specifically is as follows:
Food, beverages and tobacco, 1.2%;
Textiles, wearing apparel and leather and related products, 0.4%;
Wood, paper and paper products, 0.3%;
Chemicals, chemical products, rubber and plastic, 1.1%;
Low tech, 1.5%;
High tech, 2.3%; and
Other, 2.1%;

Transport and Communication

In 2011 in England and Wales, 8.9% of working people were in the transport and communication sector. This is made up of two industry groups, transport and storage, with 5.0%, and Information and communication, with 4.0%. This sector is concentrated in the South East of England.
The local authority with the highest percentage of residents employed in Transport and storage is Crawley in the South East, at 15.5%, which includes Gatwick Airport. The next highest area is Spelthorne in the South East, at 15.0%, followed by Slough in the South East at 12.6%. Both these areas adjoin Hillingdon which contains Heathrow airport. The area with the highest percentage of residents employed in information and communication is Wokingham in the South East, at 12.6%.

Construction

Construction is a male dominated sector with 87.8% of those working within it being men, the largest gender difference within all of the industries. In 2011, 7.7% of the workforce worked in the construction industry. The area with the highest percentage of residents employed in construction is Castle Point in the East of England with 12.5% of those employed working in the construction industry. Castle Point is part of the Thames Gateway and has been the focus for regeneration projects in recent years. The second largest percentage of residents working in construction is within Broxbourne in the East of England at 12.0%. Gravesham in the South East is the area with the third highest percentage of residents working within construction, at 11.9%. The latter area is also in the Thames Gateway.

Energy and Water

Energy and water is the second smallest industry sector in England and Wales, accounting for around 1.5% of the working population. This sector comprises water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities, at 0.7%; electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, at 0.6%; and mining and quarrying at 0.2%.
Copeland in the North West, which contains the Sellafield nuclear site, is the area with the largest percentage of residents employed in this sector work, at 7.4%. For two of the three sub industries within energy and water, Copeland is the area with the highest percentage of residents working: water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities, with 3.1%, and electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, with 3.9% respectively. For Mining and quarrying, Redcar and Cleveland, in the North East, is the area that has the highest percentage of residents employed in it, with 2.0%. This area has a history of mining and quarrying and has the Boulby potash mine on the coast.

Agriculture and Fishing

Agriculture, forestry and fishing is the smallest industry sector in England and Wales with just 0.9% of the workforce. The local authority which has the largest percentage of residents employed in agriculture and fishing is Powys at 8.7%. Powys is a mountainous rural area; it is the largest county in Wales. It has a landscape that is suited to hill farming and grazing and the rearing of sheep.

 

Changes in Standard Industrial Classification

A Standard Industrial Classification was first introduced in 1948 to promote uniformity and comparability in official statistics. There have been several revisions to the classification over time; in 1958, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2003 and 2007. Over time there have been changes in the organisation and relative importance of a number of industries which have made the changes to the classifications desirable. To look at industry groups in detail over time is difficult as the changes in classification affect the comparability. Broad categories of industry groups have been used to allow more comparability despite the various changes to the classifications over the years. The groups used are:

  • Agriculture and fishing;

  • Energy and Water;

  • Construction;

  • Manufacturing;

  • Services. 

There are other factors that affect the comparability over time. From 1841 to 1911 the data covers industry within Great Britain, from 1921 to 2011 the data covers industry within England and Wales. Over time the age of people asked about the industry they work in has changed, varying from all people including children aged under 10 from 1841 to 1911, to those aged 16 to 74 in 2001 and 2011. For this reason the story looks at percentages, rather than numbers, of people within the industry groups. Some industries might have also changed slightly due to some jobs being outsourced to other industries. This means a job that was classified under one industry might now be classified under another without the job itself having changed.

Background notes:

1. This story is based on census data. This data is for every 10 years since 1841, excluding 1941 and 1971. There was no census recorded in 1941 and information for 1971 will not be included due to inconsistent industrial classification. Data for 1841 to 1911 covers Great Britain and for 1921 to 2011, England and Wales.

2. The 2011 Census data used within the story can be found at the following links:

 
2011 Census: KS605EW Industry, local authorities in England and Wales

2011 Census: KS606EW Industry - Males, local authorities in England and Wales

2011 Census: KS607EW Industry - Females, local authorities in England and Wales

2011 Census: QS605EW Industry, local authorities in England and Wales

3. Wage are data taken from ASHE 2012 (provisional) Table 5 - Region by Industry (2 digit SIC 2007), Table 5.6a Hourly pay excluding overtime. 

Categories: Population, People and Places, Labour Market
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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