UK becoming "city-state"

London increasing draw for the young
London increasing draw for the young

New research shows that the North-South divide is widening as highly skilled individuals are increasingly migrating to London.

The proportion of all UK graduates in the capital now stands at 20 per cent, up 16 per cent from ten years ago.

In addition the major metropolitan centres like Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow have suffered drops in population.

Co-author of the report, Professor Daniel Dorling, said: "Our conclusion is that the country is being split in half. To the south is the metropolis of Greater London, to the north and west is the 'archipelago of the provinces' - city islands that appear to be slowly sinking demographically, socially and economically.

"On the maps shown here, the UK is looking more and more like a city-state. It is a Kingdom united only by history, increasingly divided by its geography."

The research team, from Sheffield University, has produced a Census atlas of the UK, which compares 2001 Census data with data from 1991.

Despite the UK's overall increasing wealth, three per cent more households were classed as poor in 2001. The poorest boroughs are still Tower Hamlets and Hackney and the wealthiest are still Hart in Hampshire and South Buckinghamshire.

Key to the increasing wealth in London is the 1.7 million banking and financial jobs created since 1991, which have attracted young and skilled people to the capital in "unprecedented numbers. displacing older and sicker people and the less skilled."

In the North, around half a million skilled jobs have been lost. One of the maps notes that in some northern towns the central population has also become younger as the southern youth venture up to university, before returning south to seek employment.

There are pockets of affluence identified in the North, in places like Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester that effectively "govern" the respective regions.

Successive governments have tried and failed to tackle the differential growth rates between the North and the South and have sought to encourage investment further northwards.

The Labour government in particular has been vocal about shifting to the North. Referendums for regional assemblies, which John Prescott believes could revitalise the North, are due in the autumn and the Government is further committed to shifting thousands of civil service jobs out of the capital.

Some other public sector employers have followed suit with the BBC on Tuesday promising to shift 50 per cent of its public service workers out of London and into the regions.

Whether these measures will do anything to halt the migration patterns identified by the report, and the widespread perception that the "best" jobs are in London remains to be seen.