Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Slump busters: jobs that beat the downturn

By Ben Steele
BBC Money Programme

The economic slowdown is forcing families across Britain to make tough choices.

Wedding dress for sale on eBay
Shrewd consumers buy wedding dresses online

People working in the house-building industry face the fastest, most severe decline for 70 years.

Sales have halved, repossessions are up 71%, and the average property value has dropped more than 10,000 in a year.

House-building firms have cut thousands of jobs.

Boom has turned to bust and some of those who work in the industry have taken drastic measures.

Better outlook

Quantity surveyor Patric Vale and his family have packed up everything they own.

"If I lost my job with what appears to be a recession then we could lose our house," says Mr Vale.

Some leave the country to find work

"It doesn't bear thinking about."

Rather than face the risk of redundancy and repossession, Mr Vale has taken a bold decision, accepting work in Dubai.

The whole family is moving to the Middle East.

It is a step into the unknown, but they flew out from Heathrow in optimistic mood.

"I think we've got the right outlook," reflects Mr Vale. "We do want to make a better life for ourselves in the short term whilst things are like they are in the UK."

Jobs disappear

It is not just builders who lose their jobs in a housing market slowdown.

The impact of the credit crunch may prove to be a much needed catalyst for some
Sharon Slade

The industry is an enormous multiplier in the economy.

As it slows, carpet showrooms, kitchen companies, removal firms, solicitors, brick and tile manufacturers, truck drivers who deliver construction material are all affected.

So too are estate agents.

The industry has been buffeted by the downturn in sales, with many estate agents currently selling less than one home a week.

It has been estimated that 20% of all agents could lose their jobs by Christmas.

Martin Keeler had worked as an agent for five years in East Sussex, but he lost his job in the summer.

"I got a phone call at home saying that it is no need to come in anymore," he says. "I was gutted."

With a big mortgage of his own, Mr Keeler needed to find new employment quickly.

Instead of looking for another job in a saturated industry, he assessed his marketable skills and decided to use them.

As such, the downturn has been a catalyst for Mr Keeler in helping him decide what he wanted to do with his life.

"What I thought was a safe job didn't turn out to be a safe job," he says.

"So I've gone back to what I should have stuck with in the first place, which is DJ-ing."

Money can't buy me love

Last year the average wedding cost approximately 20,000.

Gay Cossins
Ms Cossins has found a novel way of beating the credit crunch

In Devon, skilled labourer Chris May and Titch Fenwick had been engaged for over five years.

But they had to put their dreams of marriage on hold, as they could not afford to pay for their big day.

"Titch has seen the dress she wants," says Mr May. "But it is thousands of pounds. I can't afford that on my wage."

Yet in August the couple did get married.

Ms Fenwick had found a way to keep her dream from turning into a financial nightmare, and in the process she set a brand new trend: the credit crunch wedding.

She bought her ideal dress on the internet for 52, and their wedding rings cost 19.

They held the reception at Mr May's workplace for free and their honeymoon was a stroll along the seafront.

All in, the day cost them just 545.

Heat or eat?

No matter what our personal circumstances, we've all been hit by a sharp rise in the price of energy.

Gas and electricity prices have jumped by some 35% this autumn and the average household energy bill is now 1,240.

The price increases have forced millions of vulnerable people into fuel poverty, spending more than 10% of household income on gas and electricity.

Allan Asher was chief executive of the consumer watchdog Energy Watch till the organisation closed this September.

"The impact of the skyrocketing prices is forcing millions of families to make absolutely stark choices," he says.

"It really comes down to whether people can afford to heat or eat."

But in East Sussex, retired teacher Gay Cossins has found an unusual way to beat the price hike.

Last year, at a cost of 1,800, she installed a wood-burning stove for heating and cooking.

She scavenges for wood and now has a shed full to see her through the coming winter.

As a result of this pre-planning, Ms Cossins is almost immune to the price hike: her last winter's gas bill came to just 9.57 and she expects this winter's bill to be less than 15.

With the Bank of England warning the economy may be in recession well into 2009, millions of Britons are being forced to find a way through the economic doom and gloom.

With a bit of forward thinking - and some luck - some are already beating the downturn.

Credit Crash Britain: Slump Busters, 1930 on BBC 2 on 27 November.

Print Sponsor


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific