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The South East is a region of many contrasts, but it is generally ...
The South East is a region of many contrasts, but it is generally

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

today. It has been produced jointly by the Office for National

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


Background notes

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 economy

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.

(page 18)

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

England.(page 38)

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.

(page 48)

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.

(page 55)

Three quarters of dwellings in the South East are owner occupied

compared with two thirds in Great Britain.

(page 59)

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.

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