Unemployment levels in Tower Hamlets and Hackney among the worst in the country

Payslips are becoming less frequent in Tower Hamlets, Pic: renway2007 (Flickr)

Tower Hamlets is suffering from the one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country.

Unemployment has reached 13.2 per cent in the borough, making it the third highest of all the London Boroughs and fifth out of 415 regions and local authorities in the UK.

According to a report released today by the Office for National Statistics unemployment in Britain has hit a 17-year high with approximately 2.68 million people currently unemployed.

Hackney is among the top 10 per cent of jobless local authorities in the country, while Lewisham falls just outside of this percentile.

The figures also carry bad news for Lewisham residents, showing the borough to have the worst job density in the whole country. This means that the borough has the least jobs per number of residents out of any area in the country.

Tower Hamlets, Lewisham, Hackney and Croydon all recorded a slight rise in unemployment and numbers of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance on last year.

Unemployment as of Jan 16, 2012 (%) Unemployment increase in period July 2010-2011(%) Ranking of highest unemployment in London Boroughs (32)
Tower Hamlets 13.2 2.2 3
Hackney 11.7 2 5
Lewisham 10.3 1.9 9
Croydon 8.8 1.6 20


While unemployment in Croydon has risen to 8.8 per cent, an increase of one percentage point since last quarter, it still remains slightly below that of London as a whole – currently at 9.1 per cent.

As unemployment reached its highest level nationwide for seventeen years, analysis of figures by think tank IPPR showed Lewisham as one of the areas worst affected by a lack of jobs, with 16 job seekers chasing each vacancy. This is four times higher than the national average.

The statistics have elicited varied responses from local political and business figures.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse in Tower Hamlets, released a statement laying the blame for the ‘jobs crisis’ at the feet of the government:

“These figures will only confirm what families in Poplar and Limehouse already know – we are facing an unemployment emergency. Complacent and out of touch Ministers need to wake up to the jobs crisis they’re responsible for and take urgent action now”.

Trade unions also rounded on the government. Arguing that public sector redundancies are far outweighing job creation in the private sector, Laurie Heselden of the Southern and Eastern TUC criticised the Coalition’s austerity programme and slammed its belief that private sector investment and growth would offset job losses.

Speaking to EastLondonLines, he said:  “Britain is in the midst of a full-on jobs crisis and this is acutely apparent in the labour market in East London. Look deeper and the data shows that desperate workers are being forced to accept part-time work and insecure self-employment, and that the unemployment rate for young Black men under 25 might be as high as 50 per cent. The Government’s economic policy is not working and it is now the cause of recession, not a response to recession.”

Yet the gloomy figures are not necessarily reflective of prevailing local business conditions, according to Daphne Clifton, President of the South East London Chamber of Commerce, who said that many local businesses have an optimistic outlook. In a survey carried out in December by the organisation, which largely represents small and medium businesses, 88 per cent of the 150 respondents expected business to be better in the year ahead. In addition, more than two thirds expected their size to remain the same, while 23 per cent anticipated increasing their staff numbers, compared with 13 per cent a year ago.

She told EastLondonLines: “It is difficult to take a definite stance on why the numbers are so high without looking at which sector is most affected, but it will at least partly be due to [redundancies in] the public sector”.

When asked why the jobless level is so high in parts of South and East London, Clifton commented: “It is not necessarily about a lack of skills […] but it can be about being prepared for work, things like punctuality and proper presentation when going to work.”

She added that the Chamber of Commerce is encouraging small and medium businesses to take on young apprentices.

Written by Ruth Edwards and Michael Pooler

One Response

  1. gabriella October 12, 2012

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