30/03/2016 17:49 BST | Updated 30/03/2016 17:54 BST

How Steel And 7 Other Great British Industries Have Collapsed Over Last Four Decades

Coal mining and ship building shed thousands. Food and drink booming.

Matthew Horwood via Getty Images
Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant in South Wales

The crisis facing the British steel industry after Tata announced it is to sell its loss-making UK plants has prompted a huge political row.

Thousands of jobs are under-threat and the Tory Government is facing pressure from Labour to act - with even Conservative backbenchers suggesting re-nationalisation should be considered.

But with the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales, Britain's biggest, losing £1 million a day critics suggest the industry cannot be propped up in an era of cheap foreign imports.

So could another once vital British industry be on the brink of collapse? The data makes for grim reading.

The Huffington Post UK analysed Office for National Statistics figures that show how steel and other heavy industries have haemorrhaged jobs since comparable records began in 1978 - a span that has included Tory, Labour and coalition governments have been in charge.

Meanwhile, two in particular have boomed in the same period.

  • 1. Textiles: 350,000 Jobs Lost
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    The growth of cheap overseas imports has had a devastating impact on British-made clothing, textiles and leather. Some 406,000 people found employment in the sector in 1978, but that had crashed to 56,000 by last year.
  • 2. Car Manufacturing: 330,000 Jobs Lost
    Owen Humphreys/PA Archive
    Car-making, the powerbase of the Midlands and North East economies, did employ 492,000 people in 1978, but the total was just 162,000 by 2015.
  • 3. Steel Making: 315,000 Jobs Lost
    John Giles/PA Wire
    Manufacture of basic metals - which includes steel, but other metals such as aluminium - has declined from a 386,000-strong workforce to just 71,000.
  • 4. Coal Mining: 158,000 Jobs Lost
    POOL New / Reuters
    The industry boasted 175,000 employees in 1978, and had fallen to 17,000 by 2015 - the year the UK's last remaining deep mine closed in North Yorkshire.
  • 5. Farming: 142,000 Jobs Lost
    Andrew Parsons/PA Archive
    Some 342,000 people worked in agriculture, an industry largely propped up by EU subsidy, in 1978. That's dropped to 200,000 by 2015.
  • 6. Ship, Train And Plane Manufacturing: 138,000 Jobs Lost
    Owen Humphreys/PA Archive
    Transport manufacturing is down from 270,000 to 132,000 in the 37 years since comparable records began.
  • 7. Tin Mining: 52,000 Jobs Lost
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    The mining of metal ores - such as tin - was once the backbone of the far South West economy. But even by the late 1970s the workforce had depleted to 74,000 and to 22,000 by last year.
  • 8. Fishing: 9,000 Jobs Lost
    David Cheskin/PA Archive
    Once the lifeblood of coastal communities across the UK, fisheries were employing just 8,000 people by 2015, down from 17,000 in 1978.

    But two industries have grown fast ...
  • 1. Retail: 860,000 Jobs Created
    Sang Tan/AP
    The nation of shopkeepers has gone from strength to strength: retail provided 2.17 million jobs in 1978, spiralling to 3.03 million by 2015.
  • 2. Food And Drink: 809,000 Jobs Created
    So-called "food and beverage service activities" - restaurants, cafes, pubs - employed 878,000 people in 1978. By 2015, that was up to 1.7 million.