How and why has the employment structure changed since 1945 within the UK?

Employment structure is made up by three categories; they are primary, secondary, and tertiary and on a graph they would all add up to 100%. There is a fourth type of employment, quaternary, although this is not considered along with the others. This type of employment only really takes place within MEDCs as it mainly involves high levels of technology such as computers and is quite expensive to run. Primary industries are those which involve natural resources such as farming, fishing, mining and forestry.

For many LEDCs, this is the main category of employment and provides a wage for a person with little skills. Secondary industries involve that of manufacturing items such as cars, newspapers and cheese manufacture. Tertiary industries cover quite a high percentage of the employment structure within MEDCs such as the UK. This is employment related to services such as education, health and retailing.

Since 1945 the employment structure of the UK has changed dramatically. Primary employment has more than halved from 9% of the population down to 3%.

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Secondary has also fallen from 43% to 27% while tertiary employment has increased from 48% to 70%. There are a number of reasons behind these changes as explained below. These figures are common to most other MEDCs alike the UK and follow the same trends in growth and decline.

The percentage of the population employed within primary industries decreased for a number of reasons. Firstly there are limited resources left in the 21st Century such as coal and iron ore. This is becoming uneconomic to mine for especially in places such as South Wales where decline occurred after the war had ended in 1945.

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This is due to the increase in technology as we have more efficient use of the resources that are already above the ground. Other sources were used in their place such as eco-friendly ones, i.e. hydro and wind power. Within the South of Wales the people employed by the mines decreased from 250,000 to a mere 2000 over the period of 50 years.

Another reason is that the UK tends to import most of its resources as its more economical and the fact that the UK is a wealthy nation in today's age. Mechanisation in the 1950s has meant fewer jobs for people as machines can do the same job that many men could. This is especially the case on farms where today, the farm can be run and maintained by a work force of around ten people. Finally another reason for the decrease of employment in primary industry is linked to the absolute change in population. The UK has a high percentage of people aged 15-20 and these will more likely work in tertiary industries such as retailing than in primary industries such as farming, as the pay will be the same, but the work load a lot less.

Secondary industries have also seen a decline in the amount of people employed within them. Mechanisation of factories alike mechanisation of farming has lead to fewer jobs within that industry. Machines can do the work of many men and companies only need pay the operator, saving them money and providing more profits. Secondary industries within the UK have a low job status, as the UK is an MEDC and so generally receive lower pay than a tertiary industry such as education or health.

There is also less demand in some secondary industries such as ship building. Around the war time there was great demand for ships to go to war in but now they are rarely built or used as they have little purpose other than fishing. The government also influences these types of industry by having strict policies on environmental concerns such as pollution and waste from factories. This is one reason why secondary industries within LEDCs have more employment as their governments are concerned with other matters than to care for their environment.

This is true for places such as China and Cairo where pollution levels are so bad, people wear masks when they travel to and from work. As primary industries are shrinking in size, this affects secondary industries as they provide them with raw materials to work with. Pre 1940s, the UK had many products to offer the world but as technology developed in places such as Japan, the UK slowly had less to offer and so many countries do not buy our products. This means less demand and so companies would likely be created in quaternary industries than secondary.

Unlike the other two main employment industries, employment within the tertiary sector is increasing. Larger profits are to be made within this sector without the risk. In farming, a bad year can cause the crop to die and so no profit will be made where as within retailing such as superstores, they make maximum profit year in, year out. Industries such as tourism and leisure have developed significantly since 1945 as people have higher disposable incomes and therefore spend more money within this sector. As these industries develop, more people will be employed within them to make a profit themselves. Spain's economy has partly depended on the amount of tourism they have bought into the country and so it is becoming a bigger factor in today's society.

Tertiary industries, unlike primary and secondary are useful for part time workers as they do not require full concentration on their job and can bring up children with the spare time they have, this is especially valid for women. There are many part time workers within the UK and in employment terms, two part time works make one full time worker so the tertiary sector is boosted by this part time factor. The National Health Service is the third biggest employer in the world and as this belongs to the tertiary industry makes up a fair few percentages in the employment structure.

Looking towards the future in the UK, quaternary industries will soon develop in strength as the work is very well paid but only a few percentage of employed people possess the required skills. Primary and secondary industries will probably remain low as the profit within them is of limited scope. However the employment within tertiary industry could change over time depending on influencing factors of population growth.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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How and why has the employment structure changed since 1945 within the UK?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

How and why has the employment structure changed since 1945 within the UK? essay
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