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Work and consumption


Age and composition of Britain's population

The population will reach 62 million, from its present 59 million, at about 2021. The shape of Britain's population in age and composition has been changing substantially. The UK has an ageing population, which is already one of the oldest in Europe, and it is slowly getting older. Between 1971 and 2002 there was an 18 % decrease in the number of children aged under 16. In contrast there was a 27% increase in the number of people aged 65 and over. The number of people aged 85 and over more than doubled. Projections suggest that this ageing trend will continue and that the number of people aged 65 and over will exceed the number aged under 16 by 2016. In 1990 the median age in Britain was 36, in 2002 39, and it is projected to rise to 42 by 2026. (A disproportionate number of the old, incidentally, chooses to retire to the south coast and East Anglia, creating regional imbalances).


An ageing population is characteristic of countries across the EU. 17% of the total EU population was aged 65 and over in 2001 compared with 12% in 1970. This age group accounted for 16% in the UK in 2002, compared with 18% in Italy and Greece, and 11% in the Republic of Ireland.

More boys than girls are born each year but there are more women overall 30.3 million females compared with 28.9 million males in 2002.

Life expectancy for men in Britain is over 75, for women over 80 compared with the figures of the beginning of the 20th century 45 and 49 years of age correspondingly. The reasons for this substantial increase were major social and economic trends such as improvements in nutrition and housing, advances in medicine and technology. A live birth rate is about 11 per 1,000 of population, which is rather low (in part due to


a trend towards later marriage and postponing births) and there has been a gradual reduction in the number of births since 1990, but projections suggest that the number will remain relatively constant over the next 40 years. A death rate is about 10 per 1,000 of population, remaining relatively constant over the last century in spite of population growth. However, as the ageing of the population continues, deaths are projected to increase, and are expected to exceed births from 2029.


At the outbreak of the war the nuclear family usually contained a married couple, with two children, ideally a girl and a boy, and perhaps their grandmother, or 'granny', in the background. This picture also included the traditional idea of the man going out to work while the wife stayed at home. The nuclear family is still considered the ideal social unit and most young people still aspire to this idea of their future. But, social and economic developments in the second half of the 20th century resulted in dramatic changes in the British household structure. The number of households increased by 32% between 1971 and 2003. The trend towards smaller households resulted in 29% of one person households in 2003, compared with 18% in 1971. There has been a long-term decline in the proportion of traditional families consisting of a couple with dependent children from 35% in 1971 to 22% in 2003. The number of households of lone parents with dependent children doubled 3 to 6% from 1971 to 2003.


Patterns of marriage and cohabitation have changed over the last 30 years. Although the majority of men and women still marry at some stage of their lives, the proportion of the population who are married at any one time has fallen. In 1971, 71% of men and 65% of women aged 16 and over in England and Wales were married; by 2001 this had fallen to 55% of men and 52% of women.


Women now choose to marry later in life; many women are postponing having children, and the average age of women giving birth is 27-29 years. About 20 % of women now choose not to have children at all. Altogether these factors have led to a decline in family size. Today only 29% of the population live in nuclear family households, and even within this group a considerable proportion of parents arein their second marriage with children from a previous marriage.


With social attitudes and behaviour changing now there is an enormous variety of patterns of living in the UK. For instance, the growing tendency not to marry: the number of people living alone has risen significantly, from 1 in 10 in 1951 to 1 in 3 by the end of the 20th century. Many women (and the number of these is growing) live alone preferring independence, which they fear they will lose by marriage. Incidentally, the preference of career rather than marriage was quite characteristic of the 1980s. Thus, the British are clearly becoming a more solitary nation in their living habits and this will have social implications, for example, need for more housing in the future.


There is also an increasing proportion of men and women living together before marriage. Cohabitation has become much more widespread; people in their late 20s and 30s are most likely to cohabit. For example, in 1961 only 1% of first-time married couples had previously been living together, compared with 25% in 1997. Some,'cohabiting', never do get married.


Nevertheless, marriages are as popular as ever, with 400,000 weddings yearly. (It should be pointed out that in 2001 there were 286,000 marriages in the UK, the lowest number since 1917.) In 1961 the yearly divorce rate was 2 per 1,000, but by 1988 this had risen to 13 per thousand, almost twice the European average of 7 per thousand (in 2001 there were 3 divorces per 1,000). In fact, more than 1 in 3 first



marriages end in divorce, with one quarter of first marriages failing in the first five years.


Reasons for climbing divorce rate are partly those of personal development of women who frequently want the right to pursue a career. Alongside a social acceptance of divorce greater today than in the 1950s and 1960s, women have been increasingly dissatisfied by the traditional expectations of the woman's role in marriage. Sometimes the husband's difficulty in adapting to the new situation puts a strain on the marriage. Nearly three-quarters of divorce in 1996 were granted to wives. The most common basis for wives being granted a divorce was the unreasonable behaviour of their husbands, while for men the most common reason was the adultery of their wives. (Research shows that the divorce rate is highest among those on a low income and those who marry very young, say under the age of 24.)


One inevitable consequence of the climbing divorce rate has been the rise ofsingle-parent (or lone-parent) families, whose numbers have been increasing, doubling from 8 % of all families in 1972 to 16 % by 1988, 22% in the year 1995, 10% in the year 2003. The great majority of single parents are women. Children, of course, are the main victims. 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 have divorced parents. 40 % of children experience the divorce of their parents before the age of 18.


There has also been an increase inbabies born outside marriage. It is a sign of changing social attitudes: these babies, once described as 'illegitimate' (a permanent punishment for the innocent baby), are now described officially as 'non-marital'. In 1961 only 6 % of all births were outside marriage, but the rate rose steeply to almost 41% in 2002. However, 77% of births outside marriage in 2002 were jointly registered by both parents, and in the majority of these cases the parents shared an address. Unfortunately, cohabitation is no indication of a long-term stable



environment for children. Statistics show that cohabiting parents are three times more likely to split up than married parents.


The remaining 23% of non-marital births are to single mothers, with the rate being highest in areas of high unemployment and the greatest poverty, suggesting to some analysts that the birth of a child gives a woman in such circumstances someone to love, a purpose in life and also state assistance.


What can be done of such evidence? Some critics consider such statistics to be evidence of moral decline and argue the need to return to traditional values. Is Britain really in moral decline? It would be safer to say that moral values are changing with less attention on traditional definitions of immorality.


Work and consumption

The number of people employed in the UK labour market was 27.9 million in 2003. Both full-time and part-time employment have risen over the last decade. The increase has been predominantly in the service sector, in which over three-quarters of employees now work. At the same time unemployment has fallen considerably since the last peak in 1992. In 2001 it reached its lowest level.


One of the main long-term trends in the labour market is the increased participation of women in employment. In spring 2003, nearly 70% of working age women were in employment, compared with 47% in 1959 (the year for which estimates are first available). Among many reasons for their greater involvement is that more women delay having children until their 30s and are then more likely to return to work afterwards. Other reasons include the increasing levels of educational attainment among women and changing social attitudes to women working. The difference in the employment rates between men and women is narrowing, from 47 percentage points in 1959 to 9 percentage points in 2002.


Within the United Kingdom employment rates vary. In spring 2003 many inner city areas and former industrial areas had the lowest rates - for example, 58% in Manchester and Middlesbrough. Conversely, some of the highest employment rates were in Scotland and central and southern England. The highest rates in Great Britain were in Flintshire (Wales), Bracknell Forest (England) and Argyll and Bute (Scotland), all over 85%. Within Northern Ireland, Newtownabbey had the highest employment rate - 83 %.

Economic activity

The labour market can be divided into two groups: the economically active and inactive. The economically active are defined as those who are either in employment (employee, self-employed, unpaid family worker or on a government-supported training programme) or unemployed and actively seeking work. The economically inactive are people who are not in work, but who do not satisfy all the criteria for unemployment, such as those in retirement and those not actively seeking work.


The unemployment figure is based on Labour Force Survey estimates of the number of people without a job who are seeking work. It refers to the number available to start work within two weeks who have either looked for work in the previous four weeks or are waiting to start a job they have already obtained. It is based on internationally agreed definitions and is the official measure of UK unemployment.


It should be pointed out that the recent decades have seen a profound change in thenature of work. The biggest changes have been in the UK manufacturing industries. The number of people working in factories has declined dramatically. Britain today is no longer the 'workshop of the world' it used to be in the 19th century when Britain's manufactured goods went all over the world. According to statistics: in 1950 the manufacturing industries provided more than a third GDP (gross domestic product) of the country; by 1993 it was less than a quarter. The service industries had produced about half; by 1993 that had increased to more than two-thirds. The financial sector is a prime example, by the 1980s the City of London, already an established financial center, grew rapidly and contributed vast amounts to the national balance sheet. By the 1980s also tourism had become the second biggest industry.


These changes have been accompanied by changes in the pattern of consumption, changes in people's spending habits alongside with a big increase in the amount of leisure time of the British. The number of hours they work in Britain has declined: people tend to work shorter hours and have longer holidays. Most people in Britain now will have a month's holiday a year and most people will work roundabout 37 hours a week. The most common leisure activities are home-based, or social, such as visiting relatives or friends. Television viewing is by far the most popular leisure pastime. The average person - from the age of 4 onwards - watches television 25 hours a week (4h/day).


Other popular pursuits include reading, do-it-yourself home improvements, gardening and going out for a meal, for a drink or to the cinema. Pubs not only retain their popularity as drinking places (with 80% of ale still drunk in pubs and clubs), but also become increasingly popular as places for eating out. Nowadays 'fast food' outlets are widespread in the UK's high streets. Sandwich bars and coffee shops are common, especially in towns and cities. In restaurants one can eat food from many other countries - Chinese, Indian, Italian and French are among the most widely available cuisines.


Pets are traditionally much loved in Britain. About half of families have a pet. Cats have become the most popular type of pet, and then come dogs, 8 and 7 million, respectively.


Shorter working hours have had a big impact on an enormous rise in the holiday industry. Over 29 million of UK residents (around half of the population) went overseas for holidays in 1997. In addition, 6 million were overseas journeys to see friends or relatives. Spain and France were the most popular holiday destinations, with some 12 million visits made. Central and South America, and the Caribbean are at present the fastest growing holiday destinations outside Europe.


There has also been a huge increase in the number of people with cars and in car travel. People tend to travel around Britain more. For Easter or any other holiday people would take the car and go away to another part of the country, some prettier place, to the countryside. The most popular holiday destinations are the West Country, eastern England, Scotland, the Heart of England and Wales. Incidentally, this has also brought about lots of traffic, very congested roads, lots of air pollution.


Then there has been a big increase in the number of what are called consumer durables. Televisions, microwaves, washing machines - all those sorts of household gadgets are now fairly commonplace. It has also led to a transformation in the eating habits of the British. More and more people go by convenience foods and frozen foods, there is less cooking of the traditional sorts because of the ready availability of big chain stores where you can buy a whole meal already prepared.


Interestingly enough, much advertising on television has led to the commercialization of sport. Very large sums of money are paid to all kinds of sportsmen - football players, rugby players, cricketers, etc. It has changed the nature of sport in Britain enormously.


Women employment

Within the traditional family pattern dominant in Britain through the whole 19th century and well into the 20th,women did not work and were not encouraged to go out to work. There was very much the feeling that their proper place was in the home looking after their husband, their children.


That changed during the First World War because the men went off to war and the women had to work. But after the First World War women were pushed back in their homes. Similar thing happened with the Second World War. Many men went off to fight in the war and a great number of women were brought in to do the kinds of jobs


they hadn't done before. The difference was after the war was over - it was more difficult to push them back into their home as there had been lot war damage; the economy was recovering and expanding. There were a lot of job opportunities, so it was much easier for women to stay in work.


In 1971, 55% of women of working age in the UK were in employment, compared with 91% of men. By spring 2003, the rate for women had increased to 70% while the rate for men had declined to 71%. Women now make up nearly 70% of the workforce. However, in spite of the considerable change in social attitudes since 1945, and particularly since the feminist revolution, which began in the 1960s, women are still significantly disadvantaged.


The important disadvantage to be noted here is that the pattern of women employment is very different from that of men, and recently it has improved only slightly. The reasons for this sexual division of labour are complex, but largely to do with the fact that men continue to control the positions of power and of wealth and are slow to share these with women. In spite of having a female monarch, and having had a female Prime Minister for over a decade, discrimination begins at the top.


If one looks at the senior positions of power in the country virtually none are held by women. At the beginning of 1990, of the 10 judges who formed the highest court of appeal none was a woman, and in the Civil Service there was no female Permanent Secretary. In fact, out of 304 Permanent Secretaries between 1900 and 1990, only two have been women. By 1999, though, the situation had slightly changed: women accounted for 10% of the judges and 15% of senior civil servants.


The following examples help to prove the existence of what we call a vertical segregation - the confining of women to the lower grades of a particular industry - which then become considered 'women's work'. If you look at teaching you will see


that fewer than 7% of full-time university professors are women, most of women being primary school teachers. While 25% of qualifying doctors are women, only 2% of them are surgeons. Women account for fewer than 5% of company directors. That's true of any other occupation - even something like catering. Top hotel managers, top restaurant managers will still be men and it will be women at the bottom doing the washing-up, peeling potatoes and all the mundane chores.


It is difficult to think of many successful women in business or industry. Those whose names come to mind, Anita Roddick of the Body Shop and the late Laura Ashley, reached their position by creating their own businesses. They did not climb to the top of a career ladder in an already established company. Women in career structures sense that a 'glass ceiling' exists which prevents them reaching the top.


Women are also paid less than men are. On average women earn about two thirds or three quarters of men's pay. Although the Equal Opportunities Act, requiring equal pay and conditions for women, came into effect in 1975, little has changed since then. Among police officers under the rank of sergeant, for example, women earn only 93% of men's hourly rate. In nursing, women earn on average 87% of men's wages.

According to the New Earnings Survey, average gross weekly earnings for full-time adult employees (whose pay was not affected by absence) were £465 in Great Britain (£1860 monthly).

The main reasons for the difference is the segregation of employment by gender -sometimes called horizontal discrimination - pushing women into a very limited spectrum of jobs (according to official records). These are mainly jobs that are associated with servicing the needs of others (things like cleaning, cooking, clicking at the typewriters), clerical work, shop work, nursing, welfare and primary education, in short, the categories of work in which women predominate and are significantly less paid.


Another reason is that married women are much more likely to be in part-time work. And the reason is quite clear - women's traditional role is still seen as the wife and mother. Many women feel that they can not take full-time work because that means having two jobs to do. Very few employers provide crèches for young children in order to encourage women to work for them. Even the state provides day care for less than 1% of under-three-year-olds, thus discouraging women from working.


The problems begin early with the assumptions made both by parents and by schools. In Britain traditionally boys did better than girls in schools - they had better exam results and more boys went on to university. In the last few years the situation has changed; girls tend to perform better at school and almost equal numbers go on to university. But girls are often encouraged to specialise in traditionally female subjects such as arts subjects, modern languages, social science subjects, in short - humanities subjects, and boys still tend to do the sciences, mathematics, and technology.


The strong feminist movement in Britain has helped to change things in school. Women are doing better in the job market, in work, and there is more legislation now to promote equal opportunities - a legal framework so that employers can not discriminate against women. So, the situation for women has changed very dramatically but there is quite a long wayto go before we can say that the British women have equal opportunities with men.

Date: 2016-01-03; view: 780

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