Former mining areas still face shortage of quality jobs, report finds

Easington, in County Durham, is one of the areas that received particular focus in the report. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Many former coalfield communities still face a shortage of quality jobs 40 years after the miners' strike, a report has found.

The findings from the Sheffield Hallam University study, 'State of the Coalfields 2024', commissioned by Coalfield Regeneration Trust (CRT) show communities face lower pay opportunities, poorer health and school performance below the national average.

The report found that although there has been substantial job growth in the former coalfields, the rate of growth has been slower than in the main regional cities. In the former mining communities, warehouse work has become the dominant employer.

The figures show that in the former coalfields, there are only 57 employee jobs for every 100 residents of working age, compared to a national average of 73 jobs per 100, and 88 per 100 in the main regional cities.

The shortage of local jobs means that many coalfield residents commute to neighbouring towns and cities instead. Average hourly earnings are also 6-7% below the national average.

Former mining areas still lag behind the rest of the country economically according to the report. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The report argues that because of the situation, many young people are having to move away from the communities in which they grew up to seek better opportunities elsewhere, leaving behind a population which is "generally older and in poorer health."

In total, almost 600,000 coalfield residents, one in six working-age adults, claim out-of-work benefits.

Professor Steve Fothergill, co-author of the report, said: “Britain’s coalfields have moved on since the job losses of the 1980s and '90s. There has been substantial progress in new job creation and the former coalfields have emerged with new roles in local and regional economies.

"But the full benefits of job growth have not always filtered through to local residents, leaving behind many people and communities.”

The report also found that if brought together, the former coalfields would likely be the most deprived region in the UK. As a result, the CRT has called on the government to work with them to help support economic growth in the communities.

The report comes 40 years on from the Miners' strike. Credit: ITV Archive

Linda McAvan, Chair of the CRT, said: “We are seeing positive steps towards improving the economy in the former coalfields – however it is concerning that our progress is slower than in other parts of the country.

“We know that the issues affecting coalfield communities around low-quality jobs, lower wages and poor health can be tackled and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust is playing its part in addressing these issues.

“We are keen to work with political decision-makers at all levels so that we can enable our communities to reach their full potential.”

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Coalfield communities are benefitting from levelling up support, like the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’s long-standing devolution deal, which is providing £30 million per year for 30 years to invest in local priorities.

“We are investing more than £15 billion to level up and improve lives across the country, making vital improvements to places like high streets, transport, community hubs and residential areas – which in turn are improving opportunities.”

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