What do we know
Current Employment and Unemployment Levels in the
The levels of employment and unemployment in
the Borough are discussed in detail in the Employment and Income section of the
Claimant Count unemployment, which is based on
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants, stood at 1,958 or 1.9% of
the working age population in September 2015. This compared to
rates of 1.6% in England, and 1.2% in the East of England.
Claimant Count unemployment has declined
substantially since its high of 4,363 (4.3%) in February 2013.
Unemployment among young people aged 18-24 has also declined
significantly, though still remains a concern. These reductions in
local unemployment reflect a national picture of declining JSA
The broader International Labour Organisation
(ILO) measure of unemployment, which includes people looking and
available for work who are not eligible for JSA, was an average of
5,200 or 6.1% of the economically active population for the period
July 2014 - June 2015. This compared to 5.6% in England, and
4.6% in the East of England.
Barriers to Employment - the National
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has identified the
following groups as being of particular risk of exclusion from the
- Disabled people
- Lone parents
- Ethnic minorities
- People aged 50 and over
- The lowest qualified
- Residents of the most deprived wards
For people of working age who are in none of
these disadvantaged groups, the employment rate is 82.6%, falling
to 75.4% for those in one disadvantaged group. For those in
multiple groups, the employment rate falls dramatically - for those
in 5 or 6 groups it is just 14.5% (Barrett 2010).
Nationally, the employment rate of those aged 16-64 who have an
Equality Act core long-term disability which limits their
day-to-day activities or who have a work-limiting disability is
49.1%. This compares to 78.6% among those without a disability
(ONS, Annual Population Survey, April 2014 – March 2015).
In addition, people with a disability who are in employment are
much more likely to work part-time and to work under 15 hours/week
compared to those without a disability (ONS, 2011 Census, Table
Additional issues which can present barriers
to employment include:
- Transport – especially rural residents and young people reliant
upon public transport.
- Caring responsibilities – both those providing unpaid care, and
parents who may be limited by the availability, cost and hours of
operation of day care.
- Young people who were previously looked-after children.
- New migrants with poor English skills.
- It is estimated that 1.275 million part-time workers
nationally, or 15% of all part-time workers, would like a full-time
job. This represents significant under-employment and masks
the true level of unemployment.
- An estimated 1 million people, many of whom are younger people,
are employed on ‘zero-hours’
contracts where their employment hours and shift patterns are
entirely at the discretion of the employer. This can create
problems of income insecurity and difficulty in planning other
responsibilities such as child care.
The barriers to employment faced by
disadvantaged groups are discussed in detail in Barrett 2010 and
Barriers faced by those with a limiting
long-term illness or disability are discussed in detail in ONS 2011
and Marmot 2010.
Barriers faced by older workers are examined
in Tinsley 2012.
Key Employment Inequalities in Bedford Borough
The Borough’s employment profile lags behind
its neighbours and is linked to hotspot pockets of deprivation and
inequality across the Borough. The area continues to have a
structural problem with persistent unemployment, including youth
unemployment which is a key priority locally, though unemployment
levels fell significantly in 2014 and continued to decline in the
first half of 2015.
Barriers to employment in the Borough
- Persistent unemployment hotspots. At
ward level, there are large differences in claimant count
unemployment rates (Jobseeker's Allowance), ranging from under 1%
in some rural wards to 4.2% in Castle ward (September 2015).
- Similarly, out-of-work benefit claimant
levels are far higher in the more deprived wards, exceeding 14% of
the 16-64 population in Castle and Harpur wards in
February 2015 compared to the Borough average of 8.9%.
- Though unemployment is concentrated in the urban wards, the
Borough also has pockets of ‘hidden’ unemployment and deprivation
in rural areas, though these are
difficult to identify and quantify.
- More than 200 residents currently claiming out-of-work benefits
report transport as a significant barrier to
- The employability of school leavers, including 5.5% of
16-18 year olds who were ‘non participating’ in education,
employment or training (NEET) on average between
November 2014 and January 2015. The highest NEET rates were
in Castle, Harpur and Cauldwell wards.
- In September 2015 there were 300
Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged 18-24
(2.2%). This represented a major reduction from the 1,045
(7.6%) claimants in May 2013, so that is a very positive
- GCSE results in the Borough’s schools have traditionally
lagged national levels, but there was a major improvement in
2012/13 with 59.7% of pupils in the Borough’s maintained schools
achieving 5+ A*-C passes including English and Maths. Partly as a
result of a new national measurement regime, this declined to 52.0%
in 2013/14, below the national average of 53.4%.
- GCSE results vary greatly by deprivation level, with just 32.9%
of pupils resident in the 20% most deprived LSOAs achieving 5+ A*-C
passes including English and Maths, compared to 54.1% of pupils
living in the 80% least deprived LSOAs (2013/14).
- While it was generally believed that
qualifications in the Borough lagged national
averages, the 2011 Census suggests that this is no longer the case.
Of the 16-64 population, 30.1% have Level 4 (degree-level)
qualifications compared to 29.8% in England and 28.1% in the
region. The proportion of the 16-64 population with No
Qualifications (13.3%) is also lower than England (14.8%) or the
region (14.1%) (ONS, 2011 Census, Table
- Some ethnic groups have significantly
lower formal economic activity rates; the most pronounced
differences in the Borough are among Bangladeshi and Pakistani
females where just 30% of Bangladeshi females aged 25-49 and 46% of
Pakistani females are economically active, compared to over 80%
among the total female population aged 25-49. It should be
recognised, however, that these lower participation rates may
partly result from cultural differences and norms, and are not
totally due to restricted access to employment
- English language (ESOL), literacy and numeracy
training needs, along with access to support services are
cited as barriers to employment amongst minority ethnic groups,
both from established and new migrant communities.
- Of the 16-64 population, 11% indicated that they have a
long-term health problem or disability which
affects their day-to-day activities ‘a lot’ (4,500) or ‘a little’
(6,550). Of those Borough residents aged 16-64 who described
their health as Very Bad or Bad only 29% were economically
active and only 17% in full-time employment. This compares to
82% and 55% among those with Very Good or Good health
(ONS, 2011 Census, Table CT0126).
- In February 2015, there were 4,740 Employment and Support
Allowance claimants in the Borough. The main conditions were Mental
and Behavioural Disorders (2,180) and Diseases of the
Musculoskeletal System (750). Many of those with a work-limiting
illness, such as a mental health condition or an illness or injury,
could return to work if provided with the right support and
management (Centre for Mental Health 2013).
- There are an estimated 2,400 adults aged 18-64 in the
Borough with a learning disability. Less
than 1 in 10 of those known to social services has any form of paid
employment and, of those, very few work more than 16 hours per
- There are an estimated 17,100 unpaid
carers in Bedford Borough in 2015. People
providing high levels of unpaid care have much lower economic
activity levels than those without caring responsibilities.
Among the Borough’s total population aged 25-64 in 2011,
77.4% were in employment. There was little difference between
those who did not provide care (78.3%) and those who provided 1-19
hours each week (78.9%). However, those who
provided higher levels of care had much lower employment rates,
with 64.8% of those providing 20-49 hours being in employment,
and only 46.5% of those providing 50+ hours each week (ONS,
2011 Census, Table CT0126). Furthermore,
even when they are in employment, carers are also much more likely
than non-carers to be employed only part-time.
- There were an estimated 340 young carers aged
under 16 in 2011 and a further 870 aged 16-24. Many young
carers have low GCSE attainment, embedding a barrier to future
economic wellbeing from an early age.
- The number of lone parents in the Borough with
dependent children rose from 3,210 in 2001 to 4,860 in 2011.
While an increasing number of lone parents have entered the labour
market in recent years, 38% of female and 24% of male lone parents
in the Borough are still not in any form of paid employment (ONS,
2011 Census, Table KS107EW).
- The number of graduates in Bedford Borough is
increasing rapidly. Degree holders in Bedford Borough rose by
13,200 between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses. Putting these
skills to work requires ongoing growth in the number of higher
value-added employment opportunities.
- Between 2001 and 2011 the number of economically active people
in the Borough aged 50+ increased by 27%, the
fastest-growing segment of the labour market, though economic
inactivity levels among those aged 50+ remain a concern. This
increase reflected the ageing of the population, Government
initiatives to increase employment opportunities for older workers,
and the growing desire of older people, particularly those over
State Pension Age, to continue in work. Self-employment among
those 50 and over also grew strongly between 2001 and 2011 (by
- The increasing numbers of people over State Pension
Age who wish to remain in the labour force, either due to
financial need or for the social contact and wellbeing benefits
which employment offers, presents opportunities to improve economic
wellbeing but also presents challenges. Accommodation of this
demand will require additional growth in employment opportunities
across the Borough, and a more flexible approach on the part of
Bedford Borough Job Creation and Recruitment
While the national and local economy are
starting to show signs of recovery, the economic environment for
business is still difficult but Bedford Borough is maintaining a
relatively high level of interest in new investment and business
enquiries with approximately 565 enquiries
received by the Council for the period 2014/15. The number of jobs
created and safeguarded following inward investment and indigenous
company relocation during 2014/15 was
There are a number of major developments
coming forward in Bedford Borough over the next 2-5 years which
will create significant employment opportunities and support
economic wellbeing, including Riverside North and Ampthill Road, as
well major employment sites along the A421 corridor. Of particular
importance is the completion of the Western Bypass linking the A6
with the A421.
The latest performance figures for 2013/14
show 1,180 all-age apprenticeship starts, a rise of almost 10%
compared to a national increase of 12%. The Borough is performing
well this year relative to England; however it still has a 'catch
up' challenge with the national figures in terms of apprenticeship
participation per head of population and a relatively low number of
Connecting those residents who
are most in need to jobs and local opportunities, and supporting
business to create additional local jobs for the unemployed are key
Local recruitment issues which
have been identified in surveys and in discussions with employers,
job applicants, and professionals and community groups involved in
employment and training include:
- A mismatch between the jobs that unemployed
residents are looking for versus the type, level and remuneration
of jobs available
- Challenges in identifying sufficient young
emerging talent within schools to support local employers’
- Limited and fragmented support towards
enterprise, since the withdrawal of Business Link services
- Groups of residents with limited language,
literacy and numeracy skills preventing them from accessing
- Lack of practical mathematics and measurement
skills demanded by employers
- Lack of general employability skills,
confidence and the motivation to access local opportunities
- A growing trend towards online recruitment
brings challenges of IT skill requirements and the ability to
succeed in online applications. This challenge is faced by young
school leavers as well as older residents.
Bedford Borough Council commissions an
Business Survey (BMG Research 2013). The main objective
of the research is to identify the economic challenges and
opportunities facing businesses in the area and inform the
Councils’ approach to the development and delivery of economic
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