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South East

The South East food and drink manufacturing sector generates £6.7 billion turnover annually, accounting for 11% of England’s sector turnover. The sector employs an estimated 26,000 people. It accounts for 8% of the food and drink manufacturing sector’s workforce in England. Sector employment is concentrated in Kent (17%), Hampshire (13%), Oxfordshire (10%), Slough (10%) and Milton Keynes (10%).

There are more than 1,000 workplaces in the sector in the South East, accounting for 12% of English sector workplaces. 67% of staff work in organisations of between 1 and 10 staff, and only 3% work in organisations of over 200 staff.

The South East food and drink sector makes up 8% of the region’s total manufacturing workforce.

Between 2000 and 2007, 8,400 jobs were lost, equivalent to a 24% drop in employment levels (a bigger decline than the UK sector average of -17%). The bakery and other food sub-sectors dominate employment in the sector, accounting for 24% and 19% of the region’s food and drink processing employment, respectively.

Workforce statistics:

  • 66% of the workforce is male.
  • Males tend to dominate in the oils and fats, dairy, and beverages sub-sectors and women account for a greater than average share in the confectionery, meat, and fruit and vegetable processing sub-sectors.
  • Between 2000 and 2007, the male share of the workforce declined from 23,500 to 17,100 workers (-27% drop in employment levels) whereas the female share of the workforce declined from 11,000 to 8,900 workers (-19% drop in numbers).
  • 89% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • 23% of all female workers are employed part-time, compared with 5% of all male workers.
  • The majority of employees are aged 35-39 years (19%), and 30-34 years (16%).
  • 38% of the current workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next 20 years.
  • 97% of sector employees are white, 2% are Black or Black British and 1% Mixed.
  • 2,300 non-UK nationals are estimated to be working in the sector.
  • 9% of sector workers in the SE have some form of work-limiting disability; 6% are registered as work-limiting disabled only and 3% are registered as DDA disabled and work-limiting disabled. A further 1% are registered as DDA disabled.
  • 7% of people working in the sector are estimated to self-employed.
  • 1,700 workers (12%) in the sector have no qualifications, a lower proportion than the UK sector average (14%).
  • 9,400 workers (29%) in the sector hold their highest qualification at Level 4 or above.

Vacancies and skills:

  • Most companies report few vacancies.
  • Hard-to-fill vacancies are primarily reported in technical and skilled roles. Engineering, and other specialist skilled roles e.g. food scientists and technologists, quality assurance, bakers, millers, fish filleters and smokehouse operators.
  • Total employment in the sector is forecast to fall by approximately 10% between 2007-2017.
  • Despite the decline in employment numbers, projections indicate that the sector in the SE will need 8,000 new recruits between 2007-2017.

Source: South East Labour Market Information Profile 2009/2010