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Percentage aged 15-64 in 2011 for District/Unitary Authority

Percentage aged 15-64 in 2011 for District/Unitary Authority

Of course, the definition of 'working age' has itself changed. Compulsory education to age 10 was established in some areas from 1870, and in all areas from 1880, but enforcement was patchy. The 1918 Education Act established for the first time a national minimum school leaving age of 14, raised to 15 by Butler's 1944 Education Act (1945 in Scotland) and 16 in 1973. The male retirement age was standardised at 65 only by the 1925 Pension Act, but as far back as the 1870s trade unionists entitled to a 'superannuation' benefit based on physical decay rather than any precise age typically claimed the benefit at 64 or 65. As the census reported 5-year age bands, defining working age over our whole period as 15 to 64 seems reasonable.

Despite the large change in overall age structure, the proportion of working age has changed relatively little: it was smallest in 1871 and 1881 (59%), and at its greatest in 1931 (69%). What has changed, of course, is the make-up of the so-called 'dependent population': in 1851, 88% of those not of working age were under 15, while by 2011 the majority were over 64. As you would expect, the main concentrations of the workforce were in areas of rapid population growth, so in 1851 they were in the industrial districts and London. In 2011, low proportions of working age population are generally in rural areas, and also in coastal areas affected by retirement migration.

What our choice of rates does not show, of course, is the ratio of young and old within the working age population. Comparing, for example, the proportion under and over 45 would show that declining industrial areas generally have older workforces, and in modern Britain many in this age group are unable to find work.

Rate definition

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The "Statistical atlas" lets you view our British statistical data rates by theme in their entirety as maps for both modern local authorities and historical units.

Please note that although there are some statistics within the system relating to places outside Great Britain, particularly Ireland, the majority of our statistics are British and this is reflected in the presentation of data within the Statistical atlas.

How it works

The Statistical atlas presents national views of rates. This differs from the specific numeric data for individual administrative units presented in the "Units & Statistics" part of the place pages accessed via typing in a place-name on the homepage.

Select a theme by clicking on a theme title. You must then decide whether you wish to view data for modern local authorities or historical units. At the top of the theme page are the links to rate maps for modern units. Select one to enter the atlas. Alternatively, at the bottom of the theme page are links to maps of rates only available in their historical units.

After selecting a rate we are presented with the map page showing the selected rate. On the left hand side is the map legend and some generic subject information about the theme. Below the text is a link to the "Rate definition" which takes you out of the statistical atlas and into the description of the nCube for that theme within the data documentation system.

Beneath this are various "Options" for altering the mapped rate. With the exception of the "Political Life" theme, drop down menus exist to change the mapped rate or to select an alternative unit type. All themes have the option to select alternative dates. Selecting a different date will change the map to display re-districted data i.e. statistics which are estimates for the same (modern) geographical area going back over time. More information on how this was achieved is available here.

The map window on the right can be zoomed and panned. Using the drop down menu at the top left of the map window you can select and add a "base layer" map image beneath the transparent statistical map to help you understand the geography of the rates. The window itself can be expanded to see a bigger map using the "Bigger map" option at the top right of the map window. If this function is enabled, the information given on the left will automatically move to below the map.

About the data

The statistics come from national overviews, including Censuses, Surveys and other collated tables. You should be aware that the same information was not always collected, the questions change over time to suit contemporary conditions. For example, in the 2011 Census English households were asked about their car ownership, but this would have been of little relevance in 1921 when very few people owned their own vehicle. Conversely, the 1951 question about whether your household had shared access or no access to piped water has disappeared because it is now assumed that all, or virtually all, households will have exclusive use of a piped hot water supply. This is why not all themes have data in all years, the dates available vary according to the questions asked.

We should also point out that we have not digitised all possible historical statistics. Although we have gone a significant way to capturing and integrating suitable tables useful for our themes, this is a labour intensive and time-consuming process. We have tried to focus on particular tables to produce runs of data and in this sense the "Population" theme is the fullest. We continue to work on improving the data, both in its consistency and its accuracy as well as its extent.