The idea promoted by politicians that the service sector will absorb all the workers losing their jobs in manufacturing industry and primary production may be badly wide of the mark. Professor Jonathan Gershuny of the University of Essex has been pointing out since 1978 that 'with a few exceptions, purchases of services by households in most developed countries have actually been declining as a proportion of total expenditure over the last two or three decades'3. This is because families have been doing more for themselves - for example, they have replaced outside laundry workers and inside domestic servants with vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and washing machines, and do their own painting and decorating.

The reason why this trend has not become apparent is that it has been masked in the statistics by an increase in the number of jobs in health services and education as a result of the increase in state expenditure in these areas in the 1950s and 60s and, more recently, by industrial firms contracting out specialist activities such as cleaning or designwork which were formerly done in-house. Since state health and educational employment is unlikely to increase in future because of the reluctance of taxpayers to finance even its present level and since the scope for additional sub-contracting by industry is limited by both the relatively small proportion of the workforce still occupied there and the amount of sub-contracting which has already been done, overall service sector employment is unlikely to grow. 'The services do not seem to offer a very promising basis for the expansion of employment,' Gershuny says. 'We may be seeing now an overall decline.'

Slow growth in service jobs

Graph 2.2 If two part-time jobs are equivalent to one full-time, the number of full-time equivalent service-sector jobs in Britain grew by 12.8 per cent between 1978 and 1995, although a break in the way data is given means that this rise is overstated. The number of full-time equivalent jobs in the health and education parts of the sector barely changed over the period.

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