Monday, June 06, 2005

There is no such thing as a self contained local labour market

There is no such thing as a self contained local labour market. according to a Ph.D. published last year by Patrick Watt from Futureskills Scotland ( The main thrust of over 300 pages of evidence, analysis and prose are thus:

1 Within the UK, Travel-To-Work-Areas (TTWAs)are often adopted as convenient approximations to ‘local labour markets ’.For this to be valid,it is important that some aspects of TTWAs are fully understood.
2 TTWAs are academically defined areas,designed to provide a consistent basis for reporting unemployment rates.They were last revised in 1998.
3 TTWAs were not originally designed to be approximations of local labour markets,however much they are used as such.
4 TTWAs are defined in a consistent manner,using clear concepts and criteria,to allow for convenient comparisons across the UK.But their individual characteristics vary greatly – there is no ‘typical ’ TTWA.
5 TTWAs are static representations of a dynamic process,and as such cannot represent all the flows of jobs,workplaces,and people in an area.
6 TTWAs are based on the commuting patterns of the ‘average worker’, omitting variations across gender,occupation and other characteristics which are important in labour market terms.
7 TTWAs are based on Census data,and as such,their definition can lag behind changes in the economy and labour market.

How then, can the local labour market be analysed? In summary,caution is prudent when discussing the ‘local ’ labour market ’ in spatial terms:
- However universal the concept,there is no standard,spatial definition of the local labour market.
- The complex and dynamic nature of labour markets makes any definition of a local labour market difficult,and invites over-simplification.

As such, perhaps the best approach is to understand the spatial factors that influence labour market dynamics in the administrative area of interest,be it global,European, national,regional or local.Such a detailed understanding,allied with appropriate local knowledge and evidence can lead to effective intervention in the labour market locally.

Its far more sensible and practical to start with your area of interest (be it linked to a ‘community’ or an administrative boundary) and to try to understand the economic features and processes operating in, across and through your area. To gain this understanding you will probably need to look at features and factors both within and beyond the boundaries of your local area as you have defined it.


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