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Economic activity can be classified by sector (primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary) and also by type of employment (part-time/full-time, temporary/permanent, employed/self-employed).

Regenerating places - an overview

Regeneration is the long-term upgrading and redevelopment of places with the aim of stimulating positive socioeconomic and/or environmental change (KEY DEFINITION). It mostly involves large scale alterations to the built environment.

Regeneration has been a political issue in the UK over recent decades because of the North-South divide. Current measures like the Levelling Up Fund, worth £4.8 billion, give grants to Local Authorities most in need of regeneration (or 'levelling up'). The main aim of this fund is to reduce regional economic disparities by improving infrastructure in declining areas. For instance, London and the Southeast (the areas regarded as being most successful) were given the lowest funding per head, with London receiving £7 per head in the first round and £17 per head in the second.

The UK focuses on place-based policy in the hopes that it will lower regional inequality and improve employment prospects, but this may not be the best policy approach to achieve this. The Levelling Up Fund (LUF) has been criticised for not achieving its intended benefits, with a lot of the redevelopment money going to construction crew and contractors as opposed to local people. Also, the new higher quality housing payed for by the LUF pushes up real estate prices, making living less affordable. Far from reducing inequality, these unintended consequences may even exacerbate it, as the cost of living rises in comparison to other places with little financial benefit to the people. In regard to employment opportunities, research has shown that whilst regeneration may encourage businesses to relocate (therefore providing some jobs for locals), a much more effective way of reducing unemployment is through focusing on improving education and skill level, as this makes individuals more employable.

Because of this, urban economists stress the need for more of a focus on people-based policy as opposed to a focus on regeneration (in contrast to current UK government policies). In fact, according to Gibbons and Overman (2012), in the UK, area characteristics (quality of infrastructure, urban density, etc.) are responsible for 30% of the inequality between cities, whilst individual characteristics account for 70%. This is because people's individual education and skill level directly correlates with income and employment. If governments dedicated more funding to education and training programmes, more people would become more skilled, allowing them to access higher-paid jobs and improve their living standards (although such policies may result in all of the skilled workforce flocking to areas with the highest-paid jobs (eg: London), causing a brain drain, worsening regional inequality but improving individual outcomes).

Whilst this isn't in the Geography A level specification, it is important to understand the merits and failures of regeneration before studying the rest of the course. The content is very focused on its benefits, and there is little evaluation of its relative effectiveness in delivering its objectives. It must be considered in comparison to other policy approaches, such as people-based ones. Using an integrated-policy approach, future governments will have more success in achieving their goals.

It is important to note that all of this is intended to stimulate thinking and evaluation rather than try to be a definitive answer; I have based what is written on my reading from a small proportion of the academic knowledge on this subject. Regeneration still does create socioeconomic prosperity, and we must remember that any outcomes are dependent on external factors rather than just the policies themselves. Now that you have a better understanding of its pros and cons, you can more effectively evaluate for questions in the exam!

(I would like to credit Dr Steve Davies at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the authors of 'Urban Economics and Urban Policy', Paul Johnson's 'Follow the Money' and Edward Glaeser's 'Triumph of the City' for much of the content I have written above. I have tried to be as concise as possible and have barely scratched the surface of this highly relevant topic. If you would like to learn more, I have added links to their books which explain these concepts in much more detail and much better than I have attempted to!).

Economic sectors

Types of employment can be classified by sector:

Primary - This includes all industries which exploit natural resources, ie agriculture, mining, fishing, etc. This is only really in rural areas and has the lowest pay of any sector.

Secondary - This is all jobs which process raw materials ie manufacturing. In the UK, this was mostly done in Northern cities like Manchester and Liverpool, however the global shift in manufacturing has caused the industry in these cities to decline.

Tertiary - This is all jobs which provide a service to others ie commerce, financial services, etc. These are more common in urban areas as they rely on proximity to people and customers.

Quaternary - This is the industry concerned with human knowledge, and mostly includes ICT and technology companies. In the UK, these jobs are most concentrated in London and the South East.

Employment type

Types of employment can also be categorised as part/full-time, temporary/permanent and employed/self-employed.

In 2023 the UK workforce was 33 million people (50% of the population), with an unemployment rate of 3.7%. Overtime, the number of zero hour contracts and part-time contracts has risen. This has negative impacts on people, as this kind of employment doesn't offer the stability of a consistent pay check.

To help revise this, click the button for my condensed flashcards!

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