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Discuss the ways in which British cities have become more socially divided in the last thirty years. What are the reasons for this?

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Introduction

Discuss the ways in which British cities have become more socially divided in the last thirty years. What are the reasons for this? Uneven development is seen as an inherent feature of Capitalist development, and as a direct consequence spatial economic and social divisions have always existed within cities that adhere to this mode of production and consumption. However, the transition from fordism to post-fordism during the seventies has served to exacerbate and increase the effects of the destabilising processes associated with the economic restructuring that characterises Advanced Capitalist economies. One of the consequences of this is that there is a growing polarisation between those inhabitants who are able to take advantage of the flexible production and accumulation of wealth, lifestyle and resources, and a concentration of disadvantaged population whose ability and chance of upward social and economic mobility are severely restricted, by an ever increasing gulf that excludes them from taking part in economic and social exchange. It is this essays intention to examine the effects of the restructuring of the labour and housing markets, in an attempt to illustrate the increasing economic, social and spatial polarisations, which have resulted from the deindustrialisation of manufacturing, the growth and decentrlisation of the service industry, the residualisation of council housing and the process of counter urbanisation. In an attempt to demonstrate how the restructuring of these markets has contributed to the widening gap between specific groups of people, in terms of circumstances and opportunities, there will be a focus on shifts in government policy, the jobs deficit, and changes in the industrial and occupational structure of the labour market, and income inequality. Additional to these considerations there will be a central focus throughout the essay on the prevalence of a permanent group of multi-disadvantaged population, whose postion within the labour and housing markets denotes their exceeding exclusion from the urban structure and society. It is acknowledged that labour market and housing disadvantage are not the sole reasons this sector of society is polarised from the mainstream, but that their operation serves to further delineate their postion within the urban hierarchy. ...read more.

Middle

Patterns of growth in employment were particularly concentrated in the suburbs and accessible rural districts of major urban centres, appearing to exhibit a socio-economic plane of division, which favoured married middle class women whose husbands were in full-time employment, thus facilitating the growth of the dual income household. Poorer women and those whose husbands were unemployed failed to exploit these new jobs as the inflexible structure of the benefit system often meant that working would make them worse off. Economic restructuring not only increased unemployment and social inequality in the period since the mid 1970s but also has had major impacts on the patterns of residence within UK cities (Lee & Murie 1999). The operation of the labour and housing markets interact as to produce spatial concentrations of people with similar social and economic characteristics. Arguably the pattern of housing change in the UK has reflected a less generous welfare state regime and the growth in home ownership has increased social polarisation. Employment vulnerability reduces the choice of residence, so those who are disadvantaged in the labour market tend to be those found in the least desirable housing. A mass exodus from the cities by its inhabitants and the decentralising of industry has lead to a negative social imbalance that works against those people left in what is considered to a be less desirable location. The net shift of population out of metropolitan areas has been averaging around 90,000 people a year for the past decade and a half (TCPA 1999). Out-migration is a selective process favouring those who are in work and with better-paid non-manual jobs. House builders are developing largely segregated estates at process well above the national average. Centrally located job losses and counterurbanisation have not only led to economic disparities between the city and the rest of the country, but has increased the geographical and social unevenness of the population. ...read more.

Conclusion

Evidence has stipulated that the cause of this increasing phenomenon is attributed to the loss of traditional male employment through deindustrialisation, and the lack of relevant employment opportunities. Although this essay does not consider the term 'underclass' to be an appropriate description of this sector of society, it is apparent that there is a prevailing and ever increasing body of the population who are persistently jobless and are concentrate into the poorest housing. Both the housing and labour markets do interact and compound relative disadvantage but this is essentially an urban problem rather than exclusively prevalent within the sink estates that the governments Urban Task Force and Social Exclusion Unit appear to have targeted. There is also a clear ethnic dimension to the problem of multiple disadvantages, with high levels of ethnic minorities who are unemployment and concentrated within social housing estates. Although not possible to dissect this factor in great detail it is nonetheless a focal factor found when attempting to examine the nature of those who are in poverty. Also a distinctive north/south divide emerges with the industrial heartland of the north suffering most from massive job losses, and the south-east of the country remains far more prosperous within the south region as it does within the whole of the country. It must be reiterated though that the problems of impoverishment does appear to be an essentially urban problem, and not just confined to social housing estates but the problem is not attributed to an essentially homogenous group of people. Synthesizing the work of Fainstein, Gordon and Harloe (1996) it is evident that there is a dislocation and lack of cohesion throughout society, and that the image of the city is one of fragmentation rather than a dual existence between a rich minority and an impoverished mass. The consequence of this uneven development is an inherent feature of the post-fordist Capitalist economy that Britain has embraced, a characteristic of post-fordism is that patterns of inter-related social, economic and spatial divisions will only ever increase and there will be considerable variations in the standard of living between population groups and areas. ...read more.

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