The politicians favourite measure of the economy is Gross Value Added (GVA), especially it seems GVA per head. We know that Anglesey has the lowest GVA per head in comparison to the rest of the Wales. But when you look at how GVA is calculated, you soon discover its not as simple, as it first seems. A report by VONNE (see part 2) highlighted the problems with using GVA as a comparator of different regions, if say comparing a mostly rural area and a mostly urban area.
Anglesey is a poor island economy, and is unique in many ways, even historically it may not have had a sustained ‘prosperous’age. If we consider Amlwch and the copper mines its ‘prosperous’ times was relatively short. This started in 1768 when the first rich veins of copper where discovered in Mynydd Parys. The population of the island grew as miners and associated workers migrated to make most of the new mines. By 1802 however, the best of the copper had already been mined and by 1817 there was bitter rioting, and as John Davies in his book ‘A history of Wales’ says “Amlwch experienced a industrial revolution that failed”.
Returning to the modern era, the reasons why the GVA for Anglesey is relatively low is numerous and varied. It's primarily a rural area, with employment concentrated in the service sectors and low-tech manufacturing. (See Part 1, and report by Council). In addition, Anglesey in comparison to the rest of Wales has a high percentage of long term unemployed (28% for Anglesey, 13% for all Wales). The latest report available from the Office of National Statistics shows that the economical active on the island was 31,600, and the number of unemployed was 2,400.
Another factor is the islands growing elderly population (See Part 1,and part 3), it has a net inflow of those in the age group 45-64, and a net outflow in the age group 16-24. So why are the young leaving the islands, well it is either lack of jobs, or suitable jobs, or lack of affordable homes or a combination of both. Maybe they leave to find jobs and buy starter homes, and return later when they have become more financially secure.
To summarise we should use GVA figures with caution, and not to compare regions especially if they are not similar. However, GVA is a useful indicator of the health of the local economy. More importantly we should be worried that demographics of the island are changing, becoming older.
In part 4 is a plan showing the most deprived areas on the island. There is a warning that you should not compare individual areas, like most deprived and least deprived. However, of interest is that on Anglesey the most deprived areas are Holyhead, Amlwch and the rural area to the West of the island. In contrast, it shows Beaumaris as least deprived area. In essence it shows which areas that should be the priorities, especially the urban areas where we should be encouraging new employment opportunities first.
To conclude, the important questions are:
- why is there a net outflow of young people from the islands
- how can you help the long term unemployed find work.
I shall look at these question in later posts.