/ Money

How wide is the North/South divide?

Coins making up map of UK

The idea of there being a North-South divide in Britain isn’t new, but what the divide is, how it’s affecting people, and reasons for it are changing. Do you think the North-South divide is as wide as it used to be?

We’ve taken a look at the North-South divide to understand how people up and down the country are being affected by what is the tightest squeeze on living standards since the 1920s.

Employment’s a key factor in our wellbeing, and official figures suggest that the North has been worse affected by the recession than the South. Unemployment rates have reached 9.5% in the North, compared to 6.1% in the South.

However, when we had a close a look at your concerns, we found that on the surface many aspects of the divide are not as big as you might think. This is particularly true when you look at the essential things we must all spend money on to live.

Balancing your budgets

Surprisingly, there’s no disagreement between the North and South about what these essentials are; the cost of food, fuel and energy bills. These are now nationwide issues that are affecting everyone, equally. And with 6.6m households cutting back spending on essential items in the past month, there’s a general trend of tightening belts across Britain.

Still, while people have the same concerns around the country, our research has identified a big group of the population who are feeling the impact of recession more severely than others. And it’s these people that exemplify the new North–South Divide.

We call them the ‘Stoic Strugglers’ – they’re working people between 25-54 years old, often home owners with families to support. And, as with the class divide it is these people who are shaping the new political and social divide between the North and the South.

These people form a big part of the squeezed middle, and our research has shown a higher proportion of these people are living in the North of England, nearly a quarter (23%) as opposed to one in six in the South (17%). That’s why people in the south of England (60%) are more likely to be satisfied with life overall than people in the North (54%).

Financial concerns in the North and the South

The rising cost of living has affected the money in everyone’s pockets, but for the Stoic Strugglers – already balancing their budgets on small margins – the increased squeeze makes them the most vulnerable. They’re likely to have higher debts, which makes them increasingly worried about the future. Furthermore, we found that a third of people in the North are dissatisfied with their financial situation compared to a quarter of people in the South.

If you live in the North you’re more likely to be worried about losing your job, and concerned about the impact of public sector cuts, which will put an even tighter squeeze on your budgets. We also found this group were more worried about the price of their house falling than those in the south of England, living in fear of negative equity or having their home repossessed.

Interestingly, Londoners have more in common with their northern counterparts than they do the rest of the South. Despite its prosperous reputation, the capital is an island of concern, with many people feeling similar levels of anxiety about their future as those in the North; people in London (54%) and the north of England (50%) are both more likely to be worried about their household debt than those in the South (45%).

So, do you have a sense that the North/South divide is still prevalent in this day and age?

flintlock says:
13 October 2012

It is very unfair that because of Trade Union action people such as Teachers get the same salary where ever they work even if things such as housing is much cheaper in their area.
It makes it very difficult for the private sector to compete in the case of salaries.

In accepting a polarised north/south divide we should not overlook the genuine difficulties being experienced in many rural and coastal areas south of the line from the Mersey to The Wash. “Stoic strugglers” abound in these areas, have immense pride in and loyalty to their locality, make enormous sacrifices in their everyday lives relative to the “easy-come,easy-go” habits of the metropolitan and home county stereotypes and as well as having to put up with falling incomes have seen the withdrawal of public services, health facilities, post offices, banks, stores, public transport and petrol stations. Many live in poorly insulated homes, have long journeys to work, and part-time work or shift patterns that make it extremely difficult to secure a decent income even if their hourly rate looks satisfactory. They also have poor broadband speeds and weak mobile phone signals so that even if they are connected [which many cannot afford to be], they are suffering while city dwellers whinge on about not quite getting their 20mbps or whether their petrol is cheaper at Tesco or Asda in the same suburb.