Skilled manual jobs 'are nearing extinction'

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The Independent Online

Traditional jobs that have underpinned the livelihoods of generations of skilled working-class people are moving closer to extinction, a report shows today.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs for skilled manual workers and secretaries will be lost over the coming decade as the UK economy goes through a fundamental restructuring driven by changes in technology. In their place will come a massive expansion in the number of jobs in areas such as personal care, the media and sport as well as a surge in the number of managers.

The report, from the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA), forecasts that an additional 1.3 million jobs will be generated by 2014, with women expected to take the lion's share. But there will be a stark divide between "old" jobs such as factory work and "new" posts in the consumer sector. The SSDA, a quango tasked with raising skills levels and productivity, predicts steep declines in some sectors. Almost 340,000 skilled jobs in metals and electrical trades will be lost by 2014, a 27 per cent fall taking it well below the one million mark.

Traditional bastions of female employment do little better - with 105,000 administrative jobs going to the wall and 234,000 secretarial posts set to be lost.

This is offset by an extraordinary 20 per cent rise in the number of corporate managers that will see almost 700,000 new jobs created. The next largest rise is for people in the caring personal services sector - beauticians and hairdressers, for example - with 400,000 extra jobs.

Mike Campbell, the SSDA's strategy and research director, said: "The world economy is undergoing probably the most significant restructuring since the early 20th century."

Overall 400,000 jobs will be lost in manufacturing to take the total to 3.17 million by 2014. The SSDA said its report, which was published ahead of government figures later this morning expected to show a sharp fall in the productivity of the UK workforce last year, showed the need for major investment in skills.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a think-tank, said there was a danger of increased income inequality between the highly skilled people at the top and the remaining manual workers.