Publication

Falling off a Cliff

The Social Market Foundation’s 2017 report Living on the Edge highlighted the significant economic and social challenges facing Britain’s coastal communities. Low pay, lacklustre economic growth, bad health and poor educational outcomes were found to be issues dogging many seaside communities.

Building on Living on the Edge, this SMF briefing note provides an update on the state of Britain’s coastal communities. Worryingly, it shows that the economic gap between coastal communities and the rest of the country has widened even more since our 2017 report. Further, new analysis in this briefing note shows a growing life expectancy gap between coastal communities and the rest of the country as heath inequalities take their toll.

Data analysed in this report relate to local authorities in Great Britain. “Coastal communities” refers to local authorities which border the coast.

The key findings of our analysis are:

  • The “coastal community wage gap” widened  substantially in 2018. Average employee annual pay in coastal communities was about £4,700 lower than in the rest of Great Britain in 2018. This compares with a wage gap of  about £3,200 in 2017.  
  • Coastal communities  have seen much weaker economic growth since the financial crisis than other parts of the country. While the size of Britain’s coastal economy grew by 7.5% between 2010 and 2017, the rest of the country’s economy grew more than twice as fast, by 17.1%.  The economic growth gap between coastal communities and other parts of the country is greater than was the case before the financial crisis.
  • Access to key services, including jobs, is more limited in coastal communities than other parts of the country. Access to large centres of employment is more limited, and it takes longer to  travel to key public services such as hospitals.  
  • There  is now a widening life expectancy gap between coastal communities and the rest of Britain. While in the early 2000s there was no life expectancy gap for men born in coastal communities, those born today can now expect to live half a year less than those in other parts of the country.  Life expectancy at birth among women born in coastal towns has fallen recently.

The note concludes with some thoughts on next steps for policymakers, in light of these findings.

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