There are some similarities between today’s Britain and the Britain we first surveyed back in 1983. The global financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed have seen unemployment increase once again, although not to the levels of the early 1980s. At the time of writing, unemployment stands at 7.8 per cent of the economically active population, or 2.51 million people... But in many other respects – whether demographically, politically, economically or socially – Britain has clearly changed a great deal over the last 30 years. The UK population has not only grown (standing at over 63 million according to the 2011 Census, up from just over 56 million in 1983) but also become more diverse. Since 1991, the population with a non-white ethnic background has more than doubled, from three to seven million, and now accounts for 14 per cent of the UK population.
The structure of the job market has changed, with increases in the proportions of professional, managerial and non-routine ‘service’ occupations and a decline in routine administrative and non-routine manual jobs ... Women now form about 45 per cent of the workforce, up from 38 per cent in 1971. Our family lives have changed markedly too; cohabitation has increased considerably, as has the proportion of children born outside marriage. As in 1983, the Labour Party is in opposition, this time following three terms in office between 1997 and 2010, but today’s party is much altered from its 1980s incarnation, having moved closer to the political central ground. Finally, a digital revolution has meant that, in little more than a generation, worldwide communication has become an everyday and instant occurrence, with access to the internet now considered almost a fourth utility.