If you follow UK statistics you might know the Office of National Statistics has been developing a new set of geographies for reporting workplace-focused data from the 2011 Census, called Workplace Zones.  The zones have been developed (following a pilot by the University of Southampton) using the existing census Output Areas as a starting point, but then merging and splitting these to create new shapes containing “consistent numbers of workers”.  This is somewhat aspirational considering that, in London alone, the zones range from 100 to 11,000 workers (upper/lower quartiles at 310/550 respectively), indicating a degree of variance.  This notwithstanding, Workplace Zones and the new statistics than were published for them last week are a great new data source adding significant potential value to research into urban dynamics and workplace-related trends more generally.  Here is a map of the boundaries of the new zones, with the centroid points also plotted as I’ve used these points for plotting the statistics:

 

London_workplace_zones_grt

Here I’ve mapped some of the more interesting stories I’ve spotted so far in the data for London.  For each dataset I’ve made a map each for both Greater and Central London areas, the reason being that employment densities in the centre are so much higher than elsewhere that for any map of Greater London the central zones are little more than pixels. This centre/periphery disparity also presents a challenge for data visualisation as the customary choropleth method (colouring the zones to represent data) leads to the map’s ‘narrative’ being overly dominated by relatively low employment density areas. Instead I’ve chosen to use points to represent the data, which gives a much better idea of employment densities across the capital. Some point over-plotting seems a fair price to pay for a less misleading map. All the maps group the data by decile (10 quantiles), so the break of the 5th and 6th deciles is the map area’s average (rounded). The Central London maps have their own colour scales.

Take a look and see what you think. For visualisation enthusiasts, at the end of the post I compare one of these to a choropleth and cartogram of the same data.

Male/female proportions in the workplace..


london_sex_grt
london_sex_cen
 

Some interesting patterns emerge of higher female workforce proportions in parts of west-central London, and in the town centres across in Greater London. It’s no surprise that the City remains very male-dominated.

Who works the longest hours?


london_hours_grt
london_hours_cen
 

Quite a patchy story. Central London, the City and Docklands in particular, work the longest hours by and large. Towns outside the centre tend to work least overtime.

How does religious belief break down in workplaces across the city?


london_religion_grt
london_religion_cen
 

North London workplaces emerge as generally more religious than South of the river (although the area stretching north from Croydon is a notable exception). There is also quite a strong non-religious region stretching northwards from the centre. Central London itself shows some strong patterns, with the religious City and districts to the West clashing with the far more non-religious workplaces across Soho, Bloomsbury, Angel and Clarkenwell.

Which workplaces have healthier workers?


london_health_grt
london_health_cen
 

No surprise that the healthier workplaces tend be in higher earning parts of the city.

Which workplaces have higher education levels?


london_university_grt
london_university_cen
 

Here we’re seing broadly similar patterns to workplace employee health levels.

Which workplaces are more culturally diverse?


london_language_grt
london_language_cen
 

Here I’ve used European first languages (excluding English) to represent ‘diversity’. While certainly not the best or only proxy, it does relate closely to some of the racially-associated political debates (particularly immigration from Europe) that have dominated public debate in recent weeks. I’ll leave the map interpretations to the reader, but it should be noted that this category includes many non-permanent immigrants (such as workers on temporary work permits), as well as some large non-European groups such as employees originally from Latin America.

How far do people travel to work?


london_dist_to_work_grt
london_dist_to_work_cen
 

No-one will be surprised to see the poor commuters to Central London tend to cover the longest distances. Towns outside the centre tend to have the shortest commutes, but workers in and around Heathrow tend to have longer journeys. In the centre there’s quite a strong pattern of longer commuted for workers in the City, Westminster and Victoria areas compared to other areas, perhaps reflecting stronger Home County residential demographics.

How do people get to work?

The following categories represent the primary mode of transport to work that respondents reported:

by train..


london_travel_train_grt
london_travel_train_cen
 

by tube and tram..


london_travel_tube_grt
london_travel_tube_cen
 

We see a strong contrast between Central London workplaces that are typically accessed by train compared to those accessed by Tube and other modes of rail, with the City and Westminster’s heavier dependence on trains reflecting the longer commutes of their workers, as illustrated in the travel distances map above.

by bicycle..


london_travel_bike_grt
london_travel_bike_cen
 

and walking..


london_travel_walk_grt
london_travel_walk_cen
 

These categories are a little less clear in terms of Central London spatial patterns other than some notable cycle-to-work hot-spots in Soho, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. Outside the centre, bicycle is a lesser-used mode of transport, but many more people walk to work in town areas.
 

Alternative methods for visualisation

For the purpose of comparing methods of visualisation here are three approaches for the same map – the travel to work distances. The first is a repeat of above for convenience:

london_dist_to_work_grt
 

Here is the fairly customary choropleth..

london_dist_to_work_choropleth
 

Lastly the cartogram approach..

london_dist_to_work_cartogram
 

In my opinion the choropleth is least useful as it (a) renders half the data unreadable (in the centre.. the most economically important zone), and (b) precludes any sense of workplace densities. The cartogram (made with the brilliant little scapetoad app) calculates zonal areas proportional to their working populations, which actually gives a nice sense of the quantitative distributions in the data, but of course it reduces the reader’s ability to accurately interpret locations, and again you lose the sense of where the peripheral high employment density areas are. In my opinion the points win, but I’d be interested to hear other views.

 


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3 Responses to A new UK Census product – Workplace Zones

  1. Tim Gent says:

    Thanks for an excellent blog with some interesting information. I would agree that the points method is clearest at this level of mapping. I personally cannot understand the ‘cartogram’ approach and why it would ever be useful. A chloropleth is at least better at communicating facts. Use of ‘insets’ for dense areas is always helpful as you have done for the points.

    For larger boundaries (e.g. Wards or Boroughs), chloropleths are much more useful, but I also find that using dot maps with shading for information and variation in size for population works well.

    • Robin says:

      Yes choropleths are perfectly valid used appropriately I just think they seem to be the default choice for so much mapping these days, including in many types of scenario they’re unsuited to. But two methods I quite like for adapting them to show density are (1) applying an alpha mask (e.g. this example), and (2) ‘shining’ the choropleth through a negative residential building shapefile – my colleagues have done a nice job with this in their Data Shine site.

  2. […] There is a lot of new interesting information on workplace geography- have a look at my colleague Robin Edward’s blog, where he has been mapping this new […]

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