Kent - Economy

Economy

As of the 2001 UK census, employment statistics for the residents in Kent, including Medway, were as follows: 41.1% in full-time employment, 12.4% in part-time employment, 9.1% self-employed, 2.9% unemployed, 2.3% students with jobs, 3.7% students without jobs, 12.3% retired, 7.3% looking after home or family, 4.3% permanently sick or disabled, and 2.7% economically inactive for other reasons. Of residents aged 16–74, 16% had a higher education qualification or the equivalent, compared to 20% nationwide.

The average hours worked per week by residents of Kent were 43.1 for males and 30.9 for females. Their industry of employment was 17.3% retail, 12.4% manufacturing, 11.8% real estate, 10.3% health and social work, 8.9% construction, 8.2% transport and communications, 7.9% education, 6.0% public administration and defence, 5.6% finance, 4.8% other community and personal service activities, 4.1% hotels and restaurants, 1.6% agriculture, 0.8% energy and water supply, 0.2% mining, and 0.1% private households. This is higher than the whole of England for construction and transport/communications, and lower for manufacturing.

Kent is sometimes known as the "Garden of England" for its abundance of orchards and hop gardens. Distinctive hop-drying buildings called oasts are common in the countryside, although many have been converted into dwellings. Nearer to London, market gardens also flourish.

However, in recent years, there has been a significant drop in agriculture, and industry and services are increasing their utilisation of the area. This is illustrated by the following table of economic indicator gross value added (GVA) between 1995 and 2000 (figures are in millions of British Pounds Sterling).

Year Regional GVA Agriculture Industry Services
County of Kent (excluding Medway)
1995 12,369 379 3.1% 3,886 31.4% 8,104 65.5%
2000 15,259 259 1.7% 4,601 30.2% 10,399 68.1%
2003 18,126 287 1.6% 5,057 27.9% 12,783 70.5%
Medway
1995 1,823 21 3.1% 560 31.4% 1,243 68.2%
2000 2,348 8 1.7% 745 30.2% 1,595 67.9%
2003 2,671 10 1.6% 802 27.9% 1,859 69.6%
A Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
B includes energy and construction
C includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured

North Kent is heavily industrialised with cement-making at Northfleet and Cuxton, brickmaking at Sittingbourne, shipbuilding on the Medway and Swale, engineering and aircraft design and construction at Rochester, chemicals at Dartford and papermaking at Swanley, and oil refining at Grain. A steel mini mill in Sheerness and a rolling mill in Queenborough.There are two nuclear power stations at Dungeness, although the older one, built in 1965, was closed at the end of 2006.

Cement-making, papermaking, and coal-mining were important industries in Kent during the 19th and 20th century. Cement came to the fore in the 19th century when massive building projects were undertaken. The ready supply of chalk and huge pits between Stone and Gravesend bear testament to that industry. There were also other workings around Burham on the tidal Medway.

Kent's original paper mills stood on streams like the River Darent, tributaries of the River Medway, and on the River Stour. Two 18th century mills were on the River Len and at Tovil on the River Loose. In the late 19th century huge modern mills were built at Dartford and Northfleet on the River Thames and at Kemsley on The Swale. In pre-industrial times, almost every village and town had its own windmill or watermill, with over 400 windmills known to have stood at some time. Twenty eight survive within the county today, plus two replica mills and a further two in that part of Kent now absorbed into London. All the major rivers in the county were used to power watermills.

From about 1900, several coal pits operated in East Kent. The Kent Coalfield was mined during the 20th century at several collieries, including Chislet, Tilmanstone, Betteshanger, and the Snowdown Colliery, which ran from 1908 to 1986.

The west of the county (including Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells & Sevenoaks) is generally more affluent than the east, especially when compared to the coastal regions of Folkestone, Dover & Thanet. This is partly due to the former's proximity to London, making it prime "commuter belt" and the latter's geographic extremities. The eagerly awaited CTRL 2009 rail service, using the high speed Channel Tunnel line to bring coastal areas' travel times to London down to around an hour, is hoped to further regeneration.

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