Living and working in Norfolk

Find out more about Norfolk, the place, its people and our economy by looking at the sections below. 

The Norfolk County Council Area is covered by seven local authority districts.

Norfolk has a land area of 5,372 km² and approximately 93 miles of unspoilt coastline.

It is the fifth largest English shire county, with a proud historical and current tradition for innovations in agriculture and agri-tech - but that doesn’t tell the whole picture:

  • Norfolk has the largest agricultural sector of any English county (over 5% of the English total).  
  • The Broads - the UK’s largest navigable man made waterway and a National Park - covers 303 square kilometres approx. 5.6% of the county.
  • Forty per cent of Norfolk’s population live in one of four major urban centres – Norwich, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Thetford
  • The majority of the rest of the population live in 15 market towns

Norfolk has 372,000 households. The average household size in Norfolk is 2.26 people which is comparable to that of the Eastern region of 2.4 and the national figure of 2.36 people.

Norfolk, with an overall average house price of £205,483 was cheaper than nearby Suffolk (£224,469), Cambridgeshire (£254,332) and Essex (£270,973). The most expensive area within Norfolk was Brancaster (£570,106) and the cheapest was Great Yarmouth (£133,479). Overall sold prices in Norfolk over the last year were 6% up on the previous year and 8% up on the 2007 level of £189,913.

Council tax band D is considered to be the 'average' council tax band in England and just under 13% of properties in Norfolk fall into this band.  The majority of Norfolk properties (approx 24%) fall in to the lower band  B.

According to The English Indices of Deprivation (ID) 2010, almost 47,400 Norfolk residents live in areas which have been classified as being amongst the ten per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in England. See maps of where Norfolk's most deprived neighbourhoods are located. Norfolk also has above average deprivation compared with the English shire counties, and on most measures is the most deprived county in the East of England region.  This position has hardly changed in the past five years.  For more information see the report on indices of deprivation (2010).

According to The English Indices of Deprivation 2015 (ID2015), 68,200 Norfolk residents (about 8%) live in areas which have been classified as being amongst the ten per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in England. Norfolk is the 88th most relatively deprived out of 152 upper tier local authorities where number one represents the most relatively deprived. This is an increase in relative deprivation compared to 2010 when Norfolk was the 97th most deprived upper tier local authority.

For more information see the report on indices of deprivation (2015).

Norfolk's population is estimated at 877,700 in mid-2014 – an increase of around 6,700 on the previous year.

While Norfolk’s 551,000 hectares is classified as 95% rural, almost half our residents live in an environment classified as ‘urban’.  And while this population is rising at a lower rate (7.6% in the past decade) than the population across the East of England (9.3%) and England as a whole (8.2%), the age of its population is  increasing – with those aged 65+ growing by over 23% in the past decade.

Norfolk's oldest age groups are projected to grow the quickest in the next decade – with the 75-84 year olds projected to increase by 32.9% and the 85 and overs projected to increase by 39.7%.  Although numbers of children aged under 15 are also projected to increase, overall there is little change projected over the decade for younger adults and the middle aged.

The age structure of the population varies across Norfolk's local authority areas, but in the main, Norfolk has an ageing population.

The county's ethnic composition has changed significantly since the 2001 Census recorded a minority ethnic population of 30,000 (3.8% of the total).  By 2011 this was estimated to have risen to 64,800 (7.6%). Similarly, numbers in ethnic groups other than White rose from 1.5% of the population in 2001 to around 3.5% in 2011.

The 2011 Census indicated that there were almost 8,000 households in Norfolk where no-one had English as a main language and around 41,400 people in Norfolk had a national identity other than one of the British or Irish identities.

It also showed the diversity of passports held by Norfolk residents.  There were 22,900 passports held for EU countries outside the UK and Ireland, plus a further 18,500 including Middle East and Africa (6,600) and North America and the Caribbean (5,500).

There are more than 125 different languages spoken in the county –  Portuguese, Lithuanian and Polish are the most numerous, along with Arabic in Norwich.

In the 2011 census slightly more people in Norfolk identified as following the Christian faith (61%) than did in the rest of Eastern England (59.9%) or England as a whole (59.4) but a higher percentage also stated that they followed no formal religion – 29% in Norfolk, against 27.9% in the rest of the east of England, and 24.7% in England.

The general health of Norfolk’s population is good, with higher life expectancy than the England average – although there is more than a six year gap in the expected life expectancy of a man in the most and least deprived areas of the county.  But with an ageing population, incidence of ill-health is quite high for some of the more common ageing diseases.

57.3% of Norfolk’s population is of working age, and 74.2% of this figure are actually in work – this rate is worse than the regional average but better than the national average.  The most recent data shows the rate of unemployment in the county stood at 5.3% for the year to June 2015.  That means that there were around 22,700 people of working age unemployed in the county. Norfolk’s rate is above (worse than) the regional average of 4.6% and below (better than) the national of 5.6%.

The numbers of people claiming job seekers allowance in Norfolk has been falling steadily and the most recent data shows the rate of JSA claimants in the county stood at 1.2% (Nov 2015).  Norfolk’s rate is worse than the regional average but better than the national average.  A snapshot in November 2015 of JSA claimants aged 16 to 64 (Table 8.4) shows that of the 6,150 Norfolk claimants, 1,390 were in the 18 to 24 age group (around 23% of claimants).

In general, the qualification levels of Norfolk residents aged 16-64 are lower than the regional and national figures, and following a worsening trend. In 2014, 9.3% of Norfolk’s working-age population held no qualifications, compared to 8.1% in the region and 8.6% nationally. In 2014, the level of Norfolk residents achieving NVQ level 4 and above was 27.9% (worsening from 29.9% in 2013), compared with 33.1% for the region and 35.7% nationally.

Despite a growth in high tech and skills based industries, (recently Norwich was accorded Tech City status), academic skills and qualifications in the population have been traditionally low, and until 3 years ago only just over 50% of schools and academies in the county were rated either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. Our priority of ‘excellence in education’  and a relentless focus on supporting school improvement across the 400+ schools has seen this figure rise to its current level of 86%, meaning  26,000 more children are  now educated in good or outstanding schools.

Norfolk has two universities. The University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norwich University of the Arts, and given our quality of life it’s not surprising that the UEA, which in 2013/14 celebrated its 50th anniversary year – continues to have the highest proportion of students who stay on after graduation of any UK university. The 2016 Times Education Student Experience Survey sees the UEA rated 7th out of all universities for student experience - and stands 14th in both the Good University Guide and The Guardian ratings.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership for Norfolk and Suffolk has an ambition to transform the local economy into a global centre for talent and innovation, signing a multi-million pound Growth Deal with Government which will boost the region’s skills, drive innovation, target support to help small businesses to grow and improve transport and infrastructure.

New Anglia LEP’s total Growth Deal from Government is £221.5m to 2021. It is forecast to create up to 16,000 new jobs, 3,000 new homes and the potential to generate an additional £240m public and private investment.

Norfolk also has a rural strategy which focuses on how rural areas can be developed so that the rural economy continues to grow, the community in rural Norfolk is successful and inclusive and Norfolk’s high quality natural environment is maintained and enhanced. This strategy was developed with the rural community and its success depends on action by businesses and local communities, with the public sector playing a supportive and enabling role.

Health and care employs the most people and is set to increase to 2021. Not only are people living longer, but Norfolk is a popular retirement destination and the county is set to become one of the ‘oldest counties’ in England.

Retail continues to employ significant numbers, not least because Norwich is the largest retail centre in the East of England.

Business and professional services (two categories combined), such as accountants, is growing steadily and provides a significant proportion of higher value jobs in the county.

Employment in construction dipped after the recession, but, in 2014, was back to pre-recession levels and is set to grow slightly by 2021.

Employment in education peaked after the recession in 2014 (32.2), but is set to plateau to 2021. This is perhaps surprising, given the pressures on schools from increased birth rates and migrant workers settling here.

Accommodation and food services is a key sector for the county, supporting a tourism sector worth £2.8b, with nationally significant assets such as the Norfolk Broads.  Jobs tend to be seasonal and low waged, however.

Wholesale remains fairly static over time, but still accounts for a significant number of employees. Both retail and wholesale will be hugely assisted by the final dualling of the A11 at Elveden, allowing goods to enter and leave Norfolk much more easily and quickly.

Not surprisingly, employment in public administration is set to reduce over time, as the state and public sector entities become smaller organisations. The diversity of the Norfolk economy means that we are not as reliant on public sector jobs as other parts of the country, notably in the North of England.

While finance also has a level profile over the period, it accounts for the most GVA in the county and a high proportion of the higher level jobs. These are largely concentrated in the centre of Norwich and its outskirts (Broadland Business Park).

While still a key sector for Norfolk, agriculture will employ less people by 2021, largely as a result of mechanisation and seasonal labour, which may not reflected in these employment stats.  However, our farms are the most productive in the country, so the outputs from our agriculture contribute significantly to Norfolk’s GVA.

Find out more at

Was this webpage helpful?