About the Area
Reading is the principal regional and commercial centre of the Thames Valley, a major retail and leisure destination, with a thriving night-time economy.
There has been a huge shift in the town’s economy, from its origins in ‘beer, biscuits and bulbs’ to a compact service economy which specialises in business and insurance services, and has some of the finest high-tech business parks in the South East, with many international companies such as Microsoft and Oracle choosing Reading as their home.
The town is a major transport interchange, continuing to benefit from its strategic location on the M4 corridor and proximity to Heathrow Airport and London. Reading is also home to the University of Reading and Reading College, with a large percentage of the local working population highly skilled.
However, prosperity has brought its own problems, with pressure on infrastructure, communities and the environment. The high cost of living and, in particular, the high cost of housing, have had a significant impact on local communities. Although Reading can undoubtedly demonstrate success and wealth, the town also contains wards amongst some of the most deprived in the country.
Population & Households
Currently 162,666 residents and 66,000 households live within the Reading borough boundary, while around 233,000 people live in Reading’s greater urban area. The population is estimated to increase by 12.5% by 2039. The proportion of older people is predicted to increase, with the proportion aged 60+ predicted to rise from 10.9% in 2016 to 22.3% by 2039. The number of households is predicted to rise to 77,000 by 2039.
Reading’s continued success has further increased demand for housing, resulting in higher than national average prices, with the median house price over 4 times higher in 2015 than 1995 . Because of this, the property market has become increasingly inaccessible to those on low incomes, due to the shortage of affordable housing.
Economy, Employment & Skills
Over the last 20 years, Reading has developed from an economy based on trading and manufacturing into a centre for leading edge information communication technology (ICT) companies and is now one of the largest insurance and business service centres in the country. Reading is now a major retail centre, with a significant evening economy. Unemployment is currently low and Reading has a highly skilled workforce, however there is a disparity between the workforce and with the skills and earnings of Reading residents, with in-work poverty increasing in certain areas Reading’s occupation profile has changed since 2001 Census, with professional occupation types showing the most significant increase. Service occupations have increased and administrative occupations decreased.
Transport and Travel to Work
Reading is a major population and employment centre within the South East, benefiting from close proximity to London and Heathrow, and with excellent links to national road and rail networks as well as to Heathrow Airport. Such connectivity is represented by Reading’s status as a regional transport hub, international gateway and a major transport interchange. As with most other towns and cities in the UK, Reading experiences congestion on many of its main routes during the week, with the commercial success of the town adding to weekend congestion.
Find out more about the Borough here.