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Лингво страноведенье / Q- 03 social profile

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It is easy to assume that the population of a Western industrialized country like Britain is stable, but it is a dangerous assumption to make. There is plenty of change going on, even though the population will not reach 62 million, from its present 59 million, until about 2021. The population is unevenly distributed across the land, and there has been an insistent drift to the south and southeast. Since the 1980s.But the shape of Britain’s population in age and composition has been changing substantially, too. Since the middle of the century birth rates have fluctuated, rapidly increasing and decreasing in a single decade. This has serious implications for health and education services, and for employment. The ‘baby boom’ of the 1950s, followed by an overall decline in births during the 1970s, is leading to major changes in balance between age groups. The higher birth rate of the 1960s aggravated unemployment of the 1980s.

The British population is one of the oldest in Europe, and it is slowly getting older. In 1990 the median age in Britain was 36 but it will rise to 41 by 2020.

In the 1980s there were too many school leavers, but in 1990s there were too few to fill the jobs left by retiring people. This has important implications for some of the presently unemployed.

It should be pointed out that the recent decades have seen a profound change in the nature of work.

The biggest changes have been in the UK manufacturing industries. The number of people working in factories has declined dramatically. Britain today is no longer ‘the workshop of the world’ it used to be in the 19th century when Britain’s manufacturing goods were all over the world. As one sociologist put it rather emotionally: ”That has now died, partly as a consequence of the Thatcher government.“ The opinion is backed up by statistics; in 1950 the manufacturing industries provided more than a 1/3 GDP (Gross Domestic Product=Валовой Внутренний Продукт) of the country; by the 1993 that had increased to more than 2/3. By the 1980s also tourism had become the 2nd biggest industry.

These changes have been accompanied by changes in the pattern of consumption, changes in people’s spending habits alongside with a big increase in the amount of leisure time of the British. The number of hours they work in Britain has declined: people tend to work shorter hours and have longer holidays. The most common leisure activities are home-based or social, such as visiting relatives or friends. Television viewing is the most popular leisure pastime. The average person watches television 25 hours a week. Other popular pursuits include reading, do-it-yourself home improvements, gardening and going out for a meal or to the cinema. Nowadays ‘fast-food’ outlets- selling hamburgers, pizza, chicken and traditional fish and chips- are widespread in the UK’s high streets. In restaurants one can eat food from many other countries- Chinese, Indian, Italian and French are the most widely available cuisines.

Shorter working hours have had a big impact on an enormous rise in the holiday industry. The number of people in Britain who will go abroad for holidays has increased enormously. Spain was the most popular holiday destination, with 7,7 million visits made, followed by France (6,7 million). Central and South America, and the Caribbean are at present the fastest growing holiday destinations outside Europe.

There has also been a huge increase in the number of people with cars and in car travel. People tend to travel around Britain more. This has also brought about lots of traffic, very congested roads, lots of air pollution.

More and more people go by convenience foods and frozen foods, there is less cooking of the traditional sorts because of the ready availability of big chain stores where you can buy a whole meal already prepared. So this aspect of the market has really bloomed.

Dramatic changes have taken place in other areas of British social life. Take, for example, the classic family. There remains a strong feeling that the immediate or ‘nuclear’ family is the basic unit of society, and that traditional family values remain the mainstay of national life.

At the outbreak of the war the nuclear family usually contained a married couple, with 2 children. This picture also included the traditional idea of the man going out to work while the wife stayed at home. Social and economic developments in the 2nd half of the century resulted in dramatic changes in the British household structure. Women now choose to marry later in life. Many women are postponing having children, now about 20 % of them choose not to have children at all. Together with effective methods of family planning and later marriages these factors have led to a decline in family size. Today only 42% of the population live in nuclear family households.

With social attitudes and behavior changing now there is an enormous variety of patterns of living in the UK. For instance, the number of people living alone has risen significantly (1 in3 by the end of the century.) Many women prefer independence, which they fear to lose by marriage. The preference of career rather than marriage was the characteristic of the 1980s.Thus, the British are clearly becoming a more solitary nation in their living habits and this will have social implications, for example, need for more housing in the future.

This does not mean to say there are fewer marriages in Britain. Marriages are as popular as ever, with 400000 weddings yearly. But there is a high divorce rate. In fact, more than 1 in 3 first marriages end in divorce. Reasons for climbing divorce rate are partly those of personal development of women who frequently want the right to pursue a career.

One inevitable consequence of the climbing divorce rate has been the rise of single-parent families. The great majority of single parents are women. Children, of course, are the main victims.40% of children experience the divorce of their parents before the age of 18.

There has also been an increase in babies born outside marriage. It is a sign of changing social attitudes: once described as ‘illegitimate’, are now described as ‘non-marital’. 80% of births outside marriage in 1997 were jointly registered by both parents, and in the majority of these cases the parents shared an address. Unfortunately, cohabitation is no indication of a long-term stable environment for children. Statistics show that cohabiting parents are three times more likely to split up than married parents.

As has been mentioned above, within the traditional family pattern dominant in Britain through the whole 19th century and well into the 20th, women did not work. There was even a kind of stigma attached to working women. There was very much the feeling that their proper place was in the home looking after their husband and children.

Now women make up nearly 45% of the workforce. The important disadvantage to be noted here is that the pattern of women employment is very different from men employment. The reasons for this sexual division of labour are complex, but largely to do with the fact that men continue to control the positions of power and of wealth and are slow to share this with women.

Hardly any women have become trade union leaders. Women are also paid less than men are. On average women earn 2/3 of men’s pay. The main reason for the difference is the segregation of employment by gender- the squashing of women into a very small number of job categories. According to official records women are pushed into a very limited spectrum of jobs. These are mainly jobs that are associated with servicing the needs of others (things like cleaning, cooking, clicking at the typewriters). And this is particularly true of clerical work, shop work, nursing, welfare and primary education, in short, the categories of work in which women predominate and are less paid. Another reason is that married women are much more likely to be in part-time work. And the reason is quite clear- women’s traditional role is still seen as the wife and mother. For many people the main responsibility for housework and looking after the family lies with the woman. Women rather than their husbands suffer the career penalties of producing and raising children.

Undoubtedly perceptions are changing. Women are doing better in the job market, doing better in work, and there is more legislation now to promote equal opportunities- a legal framework so that employers cannot discriminate against women.

So, the situation for women has changed very dramatically but there is quite a long way to go before we can say that the British women have equal opportunities with men.







consumption-сфера потребления


outlet-рынок сбыта


destination-место назначения


convenience foods-полуфабрикаты



split up-расходиться

stigma-позор, клеймо



welfare-соц. обеспечение

penalty-наказание, штраф



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