well off, well educated and blessed with beautiful countryside.
Focus on the South East* brings together statistical information
from a wide variety of sources to paint a picture of the region
Statistics and the Government Office for the South East and is
published on Thursday 4 September 1997.
The South East is bustling with the most heavily used major roads
outside London and a tenth of the land area is in urban or
suburban use. Despite this a third of the region is designated as
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst there are pockets of
high unemployment, the South East as a whole has the lowest
unemployment and the highest economic activity rate in the United
Kingdom. With its well-qualified labour force, the region is
second only to London in the proportion of economically active
people in professional and managerial and technical occupations.
Focus on the South East also shows that:
the South East has a population of nearly 8 million, the largest
of all the UK regions; a fifth is aged under 16 and a similar
proportion is of pension age;
GDP per head in the South East in 1995 was£11,200, well above
the national average of£10,100 and second only to London among
the UK regions;
the South East has above the national average proportions of
people with academic qualifications at degree, other higher
education, A level and GCSE levels;
average gross household income in the South East in 1995-96, at
£438 a week, was broadly similar to that in London, and much
higher than in other regions; but
nine districts in the South East have above average levels of
1. Focus on the South East is the third volume in the Office for
National Statistics' Regional Focus series.
2. The South East described in this publication is the
administrative area covered by the Government Office for the
South East. It comprises the nine 'counties' of Berkshire,
Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent,
Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex (that is counties prior to
the local government reorganisation).
3. This News Release contains extracts from Focus on the South
East with page references; it also gives some key charts and
tables from the book. The release can be used without the book.
However, a limited number of books are available for journalists
on a first-come-first-served basis.
4. Details of the policy governing the release of data are
available from the ONS Press Office, including a description of
release categories featured on the front pages of ONS releases.
5. Crown Copyright 1997. ONS First Release and statistical
releases are subject to Crown copyright protection. Data and text
may be reproduced without a fee provided use is for genuine news
gathering and distribution purposes. Headline figures and short
extracts may also be quoted in support of commentary or
criticism. All other reproduction (especially for commercial use)
requires specific copyright permission from the ONS and payment
of a reproduction fee, or must be the subject of a commercial
agreement that includes such permission.
The South East: an overview
The South East conjures up a myriad of pictures: from the oast
houses and the white cliffs of Dover in Kent, through the
numerous holiday resorts along the length of coast, the busy
ports such as Southampton, the New Forest with its famous ponies,
the hustle and bustle of Gatwick Airport, the 'high tech'
industries in the Thames Valley, to the dreaming spires of
Oxford. Most of the pictures are positive, but the South East, as
any region, is a place of contrasts.
The region is home to nearly 8 million people. The largest urban
areas tend be along the south coast, for example Southampton,
Portsmouth and Brighton, or county towns such as Reading and
Oxford. The new town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire has the
distinction of being the fastest growing town in the United
Service industries dominate the economy of the South East, and
their importance has grown over the years as manufacturing has
declined. In terms of contribution to the overall wealth of the
region, the financial and business services sector is the most
important. However, with the heavy reliance of some counties on
the tourist industry, distribution and hotels and catering
provide the most jobs.
The South East has a higher economic activity rate than any other
region; altogether 4 million adults in the region are in the
labour force. A greater than average proportion are in jobs
usually requiring high qualifications, reflecting the high skill
levels in the labour force. Some people take advantage of the
good transport infrastructure to commute to London for jobs where
average earnings are the highest in the United Kingdom.
Berkshire, Surrey and Buckinghamshire also have very high
earnings and thus average income in the South East as a whole is
high. Coupled with low unemployment in the region overall, the
usual perception is that the South East is a prosperous area.
Some households certainly do have a high standard of living.
However, there are areas within the region where the standard is
well below the national average: East Sussex, for example, is
noticeably less affluent than neighbouring West Sussex; the Isle
of Wight suffers from both low earnings - the men on the island
are among the poorest paid in the whole country - and relatively
high unemployment; and Thanet in Kent has one of the highest
unemployment rates in the country - to the extent that it
qualifies for assistance from the European Commission to help
encourage new businesses and create new jobs.
The population in the South East grew by over 8 per cent between
1981 and 1995, more than double the growth in the United Kingdom
as a whole. (pages 10 & 11)
The population in the South East is ageing faster than that of
the nation as a whole. (pages 11 & 12)
In 1995, the South East had the lowest birth rate in the country
for women aged under 20, but one of the highest rates for women
aged 35 or over. (page 13)
Allowing for the age structure of the population, mortality in
the South East is lower than in any other region except the South
West. (page 14)
The South East has the largest economy of any region in the
United Kingdom; its GDP in 1995 totalled£88 billion. (pages 15 & 16)
Almost three quarters of the South East's GDP in 1995 was derived
from service industries compared with about two thirds nationally.
Research and Development expenditure in the South East totalled
£3.4 billion in 1995, representing just over 3 per cent of GDP
compared with the UK average of 2 per cent. (page 19)
Nearly 230,000 businesses are registered for VAT in the South
East, 15 per cent of the UK total. (page 21)
Small businesses - those employing 10 people or fewer - account
for 85 per cent of all businesses in the South East (page 21)
The labour market
There are 4 million people in the labour market in the South
East, 14 per cent of the total in the United Kingdom.
(pages 25 & 27)
The South East has a slightly older labour force than the United
Kingdom as a whole. (pages 26 & 28)
Nearly a quarter of employees in the South East are in the
distribution, hotels and catering, and repairs industries. (pages 28 & 29)
Average earnings in the South East are second only to those in
London, although men in the Isle of Wight are among the lowest
paid in England. (pages 30 & 31)
The South East as a whole has the lowest unemployment rate in
the United Kingdom, but there are areas with high unemployment,
particularly Thane. (pages 32 & 33)
Education and training
The proportion of young people in the South East attaining two or
more A levels or AS equivalents in 1994/95 was the highest in
England - 33 per cent for males and 38 per cent for females. (pages 37 & 38)
Only 44 per cent of three and four year olds in the South East
were in schools in 1995/96, the second lowest proportion in
Pupil/teacher ratios in maintained schools in the South East were
close to the England averages in 1995/96, at 23.0 for primary
schools and 16.7 for secondary schools.(page 39)
In 1994/95, 78 per cent of 16 year olds in the South East were in
full-time education, compared with 71 per cent in England as a
whole. (pages 39 & 40)
In 1996, 85 per cent of medium and large employers in the South
East provided or funded off-the-job training. (page 41)
Four out of every five households in the South East have a car,
compared with seven in ten across Great Britain as a whole.
(pages 44 & 59)
The South East contains the United Kingdom's second busiest
airport, Gatwick, with the busiest, Heathrow, immediately on its
borders. (page 46)
The South East has the highest density of rail network in the
country outside London. (page 47)
Seaports in the South East accounted for 77 per cent of
international passenger movementsand 14 per cent of freight
handled at all UK seaports in 1995.(page 47)
People living in the South East travel on average 8,100 miles
each year, compared with a GB average of 6,500 miles.
Living in the South East
There are 3.2 million households in the South East and this is
projected to increase to 3.8 million by 2016.
(pages 53 & 54)
Nearly 36 per cent of households in the South East had gross
weekly incomes of£475 or above compared with just over 28 per
cent for the United Kingdom as a whole.
Three quarters of dwellings in the South East are owner occupied
compared with two thirds in Great Britain.
In 1995-96, 15 per cent of people in the South East reported a
limiting long-standing illness compared with 19 per cent in Great
Britain as a whole. (page 62)
The South East has the second lowest recorded crime rate in
England and Wales at 8,100 offences per 100,000 population in
1995. (pages 63 & 64)
*Focus on the South East is published by The Stationery Office
and is available from The Stationery Office bookshops and through
booksellers, price£30. ISBN 0 11 620921 6.