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Economy of Birmingham facts for kids

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Colmore Row in Birmingham's Business District.

The city of Birmingham, in England, is an important manufacturing and engineering centre, employing over 100,000 people in the industry and contributing billions of pounds to the national economy. During 2013, the West Midlands region as a whole created UK exports in goods worth £19.6 billion, around 8.73% of the national total, however, exports fell by 14.5% compared to 2012 and there is a trade deficit of £5.6 billion. Output was forecast to grow from 2007 to 2012, but the city's economy flat-lined in from 2007 to 2009, following the economic crisis which affected the economies of countries around the world.

Birmingham was second only to London for the creation of new jobs between 1951 and 1961, and unemployment rarely exceeded 1% between 1948 and 1966. By 1961, household incomes in the West Midlands (county) were 13% above the national average, exceeding even London and the South East. However, the incoming Labour government of 1964 sought to control what it saw as a "threatening situation", most notably by extending the Control of Office Employment Act 1965, to the Birmingham conurbation in 1965. Birmingham's economic landscape had suffered significantly as a result, but since then much of the damage has been undone. The economy of Birmingham also grew relatively slowly between 2002 and 2012, where growth was 31% vs national growth of 44%: the lowest of all the Core Cities. Many of the higher skilled jobs generated have gone to commuters from the surrounding area, and the two parliamentary constituencies with the highest unemployment rates in the UK - Ladywood and Sparkbrook and Small Heath - are both in inner-city Birmingham. According to the 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation, Birmingham is the most deprived local authority in England in terms of income and employment. Overall, Birmingham is the 9th most deprived local authority in England when factors such as crime, health and education are included, behind Liverpool and Manchester as the third most deprived Core City. Growth has also placed significant strain on the city's transport infrastructure, with many major roads and the central New Street railway station operating considerably over capacity during peak periods.

Birmingham was also one of the founding cities for the Eurocities group and is also sitting as chair. Birmingham is considered to be a 'Beta-' global city, rated as the joint second most globally influential city in the UK after London. Birmingham has the second largest city economy in the UK after London and was ranked 72nd in the world in 2008.

Economic indices

Below is a collection of economic indices featuring Birmingham. It is important to remember that while useful, surveys and indicators have limitations, and are at times subjective and incomplete. For example, no complete list of factors affecting the quality of life can be created, and the way people weigh these factors differs.

Quality of life

  • 10th in the UK for quality of life (2013), according to a rating of the UK's 1st largest cities, ahead of Sheffield and Bradford who rank 11th and 12th respectively. The cities were assessed on a range of factors including property market activity, rental costs, salary levels, disposable income growth, cost of living, unemployment rates and life satisfaction.
  • 52nd-most liveable city in the world in 2010, according to the Mercer Index of worldwide standards of living,
  • 19th in the UK amongst big cities for 'cycle-friendliness' (2010).
  • Overall 9th most deprived Local Authority in England according to the 2010 Indices of Deprivation, which takes into account: income; employment; health and disability; education, skills and training; barriers to housing and services; crime; and living environment.
  • Most deprived Local Authority in England in terms of income deprivation.
  • Most deprived Local Authority in England in terms of employment deprivation.


Cushman & Wakefield European Cities Monitor (2010) - A survey based on the views of 500 European businesses of Europe's leading business cities.

  • Overall 18th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after London and Manchester, best city to locate a business based on factors which are disaggregated below.
  • 9th in Europe, 2nd in the UK after London, for ease of access to markets, customers or clients.
  • 16th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after London and Manchester, for best-qualified staff.
  • 15th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after London and Manchester, for quality of telecommunications.
  • 11th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after London and Manchester, for external transport links to other cities and internationally.
  • 5th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after Leeds and Glasgow, in terms of value for money of office space.
  • 15th in Europe, 4th in the UK after Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester, for the cost of staff.
  • 4th in Europe, 2nd in the UK after Manchester, for the availability of office space.
  • 16th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Manchester and Glasgow, for climate governments create for businesses.
  • 11th in Europe, 2nd in the UK after London, in terms of languages spoken.
  • 18th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Manchester and Leeds for ease of travelling around within the city.

In the same survey, when asked how well companies know each of the cities as a business location, 28% said they were familiar with Birmingham as a business location. This was the third-highest in the UK after London (82%) and Manchester (33%).


Nominal GVA for Birmingham 2008–2013. Note 2013 is provisional
Year GVA
(£ million)
Growth (%)
2008 21,015 Steady
2009 20,646 Decrease01.8%
2010 21,557 Increase04.4%
2011 22,230 Increase03.1%
2012 22,708 Increase02.2%
2013 24,067 Increase06.0%

In 2013, Birmingham's GVA was £24.1bn, accounting for 21.8% of the GVA of the West Midlands (region), and 1.6% of the GVA of the UK. Compared with other NUTS 3 city areas, its GVA is exceeded only by London (comprising five NUTS 3 areas - £309.3bn) and Greater Manchester South (£34.8bn).

Total GVA, 2013
Area GVA
(£ million)
GVA growth (%)
(£ per head)
GVA per head growth (%)
Birmingham 24,067 Increase06.0% 22,033 Increase05.3%
West Midlands (region) 110,246 Increase03.4% 19,428 Increase02.8%
UK 1,525,304 Increase03.4% 23,755 Increase02.5%

The increase in GVA in 2013 was particularly strong when compared to previous years (increase in GVA of 2.2% in the period 2011 - 2012 for Birmingham).


GVA per employee in Birmingham is estimated to be £42,800 in 2012. It is ranked 6th among the major cities and conurbations in the UK, and ranked 3rd among the Core Cities behind London (£75,100), Edinburgh (£54,100), Leeds (£46,900), Greater Manchester South (£46,500) and Glasgow (£44,700).

GVA per employee, 2012
Area GVA
per worker (£)
GVA per worker
% change 2007-12
Birmingham 42,800 Increase09%
Core Cities average 40,700 Increase010.6%

excluding Birmingham, included Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield

GVA by sector

Industry breakdown, 2012
Sector Value
(£ millions)
2011-12 (%)
% of total
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 4 Decrease020 0.02
Production 2,702 Decrease01 11.9
- of which manufacturing 2,170 Decrease05 9.1
Construction 1,103 Decrease07 4.9
Distribution; transport; accommodation and food 3,936 Increase012 17.3
Information and communication 776 Increase02 3.4
Financial and insurance services 2,459 Decrease03 10.8
Real estate activities 2,998 Increase09 13.2
Business service activities 2,643 Increase04 11.6
Public administration, education and health 5,402 Decrease02 23.8
Other services and household activities 684 Increase04 3.0
Total 22,708 Increase02


According to the 2012 Eurostat figures, GDP per capita (in euros) of Greater Manchester is = €27,500 just ahead the West-Midlands with €26,600 but only half the GDP per capita of Dublin €57,200 or London wit €54,200.

Greater Manchester has a total GDP of €74.398 bn, West Midlands has a total GDP of €73.538 bn but less than the €85.700 bn in Greater Dublin and €450.379 bn in Greater London.

Jewellery Quarter

Municipal school for jewellers and silversmiths - Birmingham - 2005-10-13
The Municipal School for Jewellers and Silversmiths in the Jewellery Quarter.

The Jewellery Quarter is the largest concentration of dedicated jewellers in Europe.

From manufacturing to service and research

As with most of the British economy, manufacturing in Birmingham has declined in importance since the 1970s, and it now employs a minority of the workforce. In recent years Birmingham's economy has diversified into service industries, retailing and tourism, which are now the main employers in the city.

Today the city's products include: motor vehicles, vehicle components and accessories, weapons, electrical equipment, plastics, machine tools, chemicals, food, jewellery and glass. Birmingham is home to two major car factories, MG Rover in Longbridge and Jaguar in Castle Bromwich (and Land Rovers are manufactured in neighbouring Solihull).


Birmingham is home to one of the largest shopping centres in the UK, the Bullring.

The city centre currently has four major shopping centres: The Bullring, The Mailbox, The Pavilions and The Pallasades, as well as a number of smaller arcades and precincts and four department stores: Selfridges, Debenhams, House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols; with John Lewis opening its biggest store outside London in the city's New Street station development in 2015.

The city's designer and high end fashion stores are mostly situated in the up-market Mailbox shopping centre, around the Colmore Row financial district, although the Bullring has seen an influx of designer brands such as Hugo Boss, Thomas Sabo, Radley and Armani Exchange.

The city centre also has four markets: The Bullring indoor market, The Birmingham rag market, St Martins outdoor market and the Oasis clothes market.


With major facilities such as the International Convention Centre, the National Exhibition Centre and the Symphony Hall the Birmingham area accounts for 42% of the UK conference and exhibition trade. The city's sporting and cultural venues attract large numbers of visitors.

Renewable resources

Birmingham has a large incineration plant, the Tyseley Energy from Waste Plant which produces electricity for the National Grid through the process of burning waste. It was built in 1996 by Veolia.

Famous brands

Famous brands from the "city of a thousand trades" include Bird's Custard, Typhoo Tea, the Birmingham Wire Gauge, Brylcreem, Chad Valley Toys, BSA, Bakelite, Cadburys chocolate, HP Sauce, The Elite Performance Sports Company (Epic) and the MG Rover Group; although no Rover cars are set to be produced in the future, with Nanjing Automobile Group to focus on the MG cars.

Employment, welfare and education

The mid-year estimate for the population of Birmingham was 1,085,400 in 2012 and population growth was estimated to be 1.04%, the 4th highest of the Core Cities after Nottingham (1.59%), Manchester (1.56%) and Newcastle (1.2%).


Employment Statistics (Jul 12-Jun 13)
Age 16-64 Birmingham
West Midlands
Great Britain
Economically active 69.9 76.2 77.3
In employment 57.5 69.0 71.1
Unemployed 16.5 9.2 7.8
Economically active who are self-employed 7.1 8.8 9.5


Earnings by residence 2013
Full-time workers Birmingham
West Midlands
Great Britain
Weekly pay (all workers) 478.6 483.0 518.1
Male 514.2 527.8 558.8
Female 423.5 421.5 459.8
Gender pay gap 17.6% 20.1% 17.7%
Hourly pay (all workers) 12.21 12.24 13.18
Male 12.61 12.88 13.80
Female 11.42 11.20 12.27
Gender pay gap 9.4% 13.0% 11.1%

Median earnings in pounds for employees living in Birmingham

Earnings by workplace 2013
Full-time workers Birmingham
West Midlands
Great Britain
Weekly pay (all workers) 518.6 484.6 517.8
Male 568.3 527.0 558.3
Female 453.3 417.1 459.6
Gender pay gap 20.2% 20.9% 17.7%
Hourly pay (All workers) 13.46 12.24 13.17
Male 14.27 12.90 13.80
Female 12.26 11.17 12.27
Gender pay gap 14.1% 13.4% 11.1%

Median earnings in pounds for employees working in Birmingham.


General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) 2012
Pupils achieving 5+ GCSEs, A*-C 88.1 81.8
Pupils achieving 5+ GCSEs, A*-C with English and Maths 60.1 59.4
Pupils achieving no GCSEs 0.8 0.5
Qualifications 2012
Level Birmingham
West Midlands
Great Britain
NVQ4 and above 27.6 27.8 34.4
NVQ3 and above 46.9 48.4 55.1
NVQ2 and above 62.9 66.6 71.8
NVQ1 and above 75.5 79.5 84.0
Other qualifications 8.6 6.9 6.3
No qualifications 15.9 13.6 9.7

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