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New tools to identify non-compliant business locations created to support regulation and enforcement

New tools to map the location of non-compliant businesses have been created following a report which found that hand car washes, nail bars, and other informal economy sectors are more likely to be found within specific types of neighbourhoods.

Nail care in salon. Selective focus on customer's nails
Enforcement agencies can now map the location of informal businesses such as nail bars and hand car washes

New tools to map the location of non-compliant businesses have been created following a report which found that hand car washes, nail bars, and other informal economy sectors are more likely to be found within specific types of neighbourhoods.

The Work, Informalisation and Place Research Centre (WIP) at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), has developed a database, maps, Informal Economy Index and Covid Economic Impact Index to predict and identify the location of business in the UK which breach regulations such as labour, environmental, health and safety, and insurance.

Created as part of research funded by the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre, it is hoped that the indices can provide a powerful and valuable tool to support place-based approaches for both national and local education, engagement, and enforcement.

Using the Ordnance Survey’s Points of Interest database and Google Street View, the team has already mapped the location of 38% of hand car washes in the UK, including core cities, and is completing the same exercise for nail bars in the East Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Birmingham.

The mapping has identified neighbourhoods where non-compliant employment sites are more likely to be located. This had led to the development of neighbourhood-level maps which predict the location of these business based on risk and protective factors in the area.

Using official data sources and fieldwork, the team has also constructed a database covering all neighbourhoods across England that include socio-demographic, economic and built environment factors which could indicate the location of hand car washes and nail bars.

For example, in relation to hand car washes they identified risk factors linked to the presence of other forms of economic activity, including vehicle repairs, second-hand car sales and petrol stations alongside A or B roads passing through neighbourhoods. Neighbourhoods less likely to feature hand car washes included those with greater educational qualifications among the population, more affluent residential areas containing detached and semi-detached properties, and greater student households.

The mapping also revealed that nail bars are more likely to be found in neighbourhoods with higher numbers of hair and beauty salons, charity shops, restaurants, shoe stores, chemists or pharmacies, petrol stations, and more cohabiting households with children. In contrast, the presence of terraced and social housing, higher median house prices and households with three or more cars is more likely to reduce the presence of nail bars.

Dr James Hunter
Dr James Hunter

Expanding on the car wash and nail bar mapping, the new Informal Economy Index (IEI) predicts the presence of employment within all sectors of the informal economy across neighbourhoods in England. The IEI concentrates on the over-representation of population groups identified as typical participants in a range of informal economy sectors within specific neighbourhoods, leading to the identification of neighbourhoods across the country which have higher or lower predicted rates of non-compliant informal engagement. It uses 14 indicators taken from official sources, for example average net income after housing costs, households living in temporary accommodation, children living in deprivation and resettled asylum seekers.

An example from the Greater Manchester area predicts higher levels of informal economy employment in the former industrial, manufacturing and textile areas but much lower levels within the more affluent neighbourhoods.

A Covid Economic Impact Index (CEII) has also been created to monitor the likely impact of the pandemic on the non-compliant economy and location of modern slavery practices.  The CEII uses existing evidence on the economic sectors that have experienced the biggest economic impact from the pandemic, such as tourism, hospitality, automotive, and beauty.

Findings showed that the impact of the pandemic was mixed in relation to non-compliant businesses and sites of modern slavery. Many non-compliant businesses were found to be located within neighbourhoods which are unlikely to benefit from local and national Covid-19 recovery initiatives, leading to concerns that measures still need to be taken to prevent further non-compliance and modern slavery from becoming more embedded in these neighbourhoods. This is needed to prevent workplaces from continuing to operate beyond re-generation measures where the drivers of non-compliance and modern slavery may continue within any new disaster or emergency incidents.

Dr James Hunter, research lead and principal lecturer in Public Policy at NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said: “There is a need for local authorities and regulators to take a neighbourhood approach to tackling illicit activity relating to the informal economy. Improved mapping means that resources and effort can be focused on identified high risk areas.

“These indices move away from a purely intelligence-based approach to one focused on geographic concentration and multi-agency activity. This is important as the presence of non-compliant workplaces, including those that exhibit modern slavery, may go unnoticed as they are often hidden or assumed to be legitimate legal enterprises.

“Based on this work we have already delivered a data product to all UK Police Forces through the National Crime Agency which supported targeted engagement with over 600 hand car washes to challenge potential illicit activity. This highlights the value of a targeted approach which challenges business owners to comply with a set of clear legal standards that protect workers, consumers and the local environment.

“We hope that these indices can now be used for additional training on spotting signs of market non-compliance across all enforcement agencies.”

Alongside its work with the National Crime Agency, WIP – which includes researchers from NTU’s School of Social Sciences and Nottingham Business School - has also worked with the Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority, Office of the Director of Labour Exploitation, and the Responsible Car Wash Scheme to inform their work to improve standards and challenge illegal activity.

The full report can be accessed online. For further information and to access the data and indices please contact Dr James Hunter. Follow the WIP Research Centre on Twitter at @WIP_research

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    About Nottingham Trent University’s Work, Informalisation and Place Research Centre  

    The Work, Informalisation and Place Research Centre (WIP) provides methodologically innovative interdisciplinary studies of contemporary work and employment in sectors such as hand car washes, nail bars, and small-scale garment manufacturing. Work in these sectors tends towards casualisation and informalisation where workers operate under business models that embed patterns of labour market exploitation. Exploitation includes wage theft, under payment of the national minimum wage through to modern slavery where employer coercion centres on work for favours, labour bondage and tied labour in unsafe workplaces.

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with nearly 39,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

    NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

    NTU is ranked 4th most sustainable university in the world and 1st in the UK for sustainability-themed Education and Research in the 2021 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

Published on 30 November 2022
  • Category: Nottingham Civic Exchange; Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School; School of Social Sciences