In Brief

Mixed picture for UK’s troubled pub sector

Employment has risen over past decade even though a quarter of pubs have shut over the same period

Pubs are employing more people than they were ten years ago, despite almost a quarter of them having closed over the same period, official figures show.

The findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) provide the latest snapshot in the well-documented decline of the British pub, as a combination of shifting consumer habitshigher drinks prices and a squeeze on household finances have damaged the industry.

According to the ONS, more than 11,000 pubs have shut over the past decade, with some outer urban areas having seen pub numbers halve since 2001. London satellite towns such as Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Luton all have fewer than half the pubs they did at the turn of the millennium, while Birmingham had the biggest number of pub closures of any local authority, with 220 pub losses since 2001.

Yet overall employment rates in pubs has actually risen by 6% since 2008.

With the bigger chains consolidating around larger bars at the expense of smaller pubs, the ONS found the largest increases in employment have been in establishments with 10 or more employees, “possibly because pubs are increasingly focused on serving food as well as beverages, which requires more waiting and kitchen staff”, says The Recruiter.

The rise in employment has been more pronounced in rural pubs, where in 2018 total employment in England and Wales is up 17% compared with 2008. In contrast, total employment in urban pubs rose by only 4% over the same period.

That said, the vast majority are failing to pay their staff the Living Wage, which currently stands at £10.55 per hour in London and £9 per hour elsewhere. Around 70% working in UK pubs are earning below this, says Drinks Business.

Although the number of pubs has dramatically fallen, the amount spent in those that are left has remained steady since the 2008 recession – after taking inflation into account – “suggesting the remaining pubs and bars have soaked up the custom from those that have closed”, says The Guardian.

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