Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk

Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

At a sub-regional level, the South West Observatory has been unable to identifyany distinctive general patterns across the occupational groups, although localauthorities with the highest levels of administrative and secretarial workersincluded South Gloucestershire, Tewksbury, Gloucester, Cheltenham andSwindon, all to the north and east of the region, with those local authoritydistricts recording the lowest proportion in these occupations in the far SouthWest. While the figures are not directly comparable, data from our case studyareas suggests that women in the Blackdown Hills and Kennet District are muchmore likely than their counterparts in North Devon and North Cornwall to holdmanagerial or professional / associate professional posts. In the Devon study, forexample, 27% of respondents worked in this capacity, compared with 34% at aregional level.The final feature of women’s employment at the regional level that we willexamine is wages. It is well known that the South West region experiences someof the lowest wage rates in the country with average wages falling around 10%lower than the average for UK across the majority of occupations. In 2002average gross weekly earnings of full-time adult employees were £422 in theSouth West compared to £463 in the UK as a whole (New Earnings Survey,2002). The wage gap between the South West and the UK is greatest in themanagerial and professional occupations, and least for craft and relatedoccupations, operatives and ‘other occupations’. More interestingly here, perhaps,are the intra-regional differences in wage rates. According to the New EarningsSurvey, wage rates within the region vary considerably by county. In the north ofthe region (Swindon and Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the West of Englandsub-region) average wages are similar to those found in the UK as a whole.Wages fall, however, in the more western parts of the region (Somerset, Devonand Cornwall). The lowest wages in the region are experienced in Devon andCornwall – these counties also have the highest proportion of low earners. In2001 average gross weekly earnings in Devon were £342 and in Cornwall £317compared to an average across the South West of £379.When interpreting the figures on wages it must be remembered that they arebased on full-time employment. The varying number of hours worked as ‘parttime’make averaging and comparisons difficult. The association between lowearnings and part-time work is, however, well established. The fact that theSouth West has the highest level of part-time working of any region in Englandand Wales is clearly a factor in the region’s low wage rates and for women’srates of pay in particular.These figures provide a useful general picture of women and the rural economyof the region but they tell us very little about the actual experiences of women inthe labour market, the choices available to them and the barriers and constraintsthey face in accessing paid employment. They also say nothing about howwomen’s paid work relates to their other forms of work, in the home andcommunity. For this type of information we need to turn to the results of our7

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