Nation shows signs of return to old North-South divide

Regional trends survey carries hints of recovery
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The Independent Online
The narrowing of the gap in the North-South divide has halted, with traditional stereotypes on their way back, according to the latest issue of Regional Trends for last year, published today.

Between 1990 and 1993 unemployment almost trebled in the South-east - while Scotland and Northern Ireland suffered relatively small increases.

But the annual report, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, reveals that 1994 saw a significant drop in unemployment in all regions, with the biggest falls in the South-west, East Anglia and the South-east.

The problem of the housing market was greatest in the South, although again there appeared to be some improvement. Prices in the South-east, the South- west and East Anglia fell by about 20 per cent between 1989 and 1993, although there were slight rises in the South-east and South-west last year.

However, in the North, Scotland and Northern Ireland, house prices have risen every year since 1989 and in Scotland they are now 30 per cent higher than their 1989 levels.

"There's no question that between 89 and 93 there was a considerable narrowing [of the gap]," said Alison Holding, associate editor of the report. "But in 94 it looks as though that narrowing may have halted."

Men in the South-east earn the most while working the shortest week - an average of pounds 419.40 for 40.9 hours. Women are worst off in the East Midlands, working 38 hours for pounds 230.50. While the South-east tends to be the richest region, it also has the most homeless households - more than 51,000.

The report also shows that the United Kingdom lags behind Western Europe in the wealth league. East Anglia and the South-east were the only areas where gross domestic product was above the European Union average. And only East Anglia, the East Midlands and the South-west had lower unemployment than the EU average.

The proportion of people owning a dishwasher has risen from 4 per cent in 1980-1 to 16 per cent in 1992-3. People in the North are most likely to have a washing machine, Wales has the most microwaves per head and people in the South-east are most likely to have compact disc players.

Throughout England the crime most women fear is burglary with 30 per cent feeling very worried, rising to 42 per cent in the North. Men fear the theft of a car most, mainly in the North (38 per cent).

On average people in Wales travel the shortest distance to work while those in the South-east commute furthest.

Marriage appears to be declining and the authors said it was "noticeable" that across the regions more people were living together before or instead of getting married. The proportion of births outside marriage had also increased. In 1993, nearly one in three babies were born outside wedlock.