The Ruhr is a heavily industrialised area of western Germany named after the river that flows through the region. It is the centre of Germany’s manufacturing industry and includes the cities of Essen and Dortmund.
Case study: heavy industry in the Ruhr
Heavy industry in Germany
- Natural resources such as coal, iron ore and limestone enabled the iron and steel industry to develop in the Ruhr. The chemical and textile industries also grew due to good transport links and available workforce.
- Canals and rivers such as the Rhine were used fortransport and power.
- The area developed industrially in the 1930s and 1940s to supply arms for Germany.
- Up until the 1970s the factories and associated services were an important source ofemployment for people in the region.
Problems and issues
- The decline in the Ruhr’s importance as a heavy industrial area has causedjob losses in steelworks and coal mines. Many people have left the area, eg cities such as Dortmund, due to economic and associated social problems.
- The environmental legacy of the heavy industry in the area includes waste tips from coal mining, air and water pollution.
- Many of the original raw materials are exhausted, there are high labour costs and old, outdated machinery. This has led to cheaper steel being imported from south east Asia where labour costs are lower. This is one of the drawbacks of globalisation for MEDC industry.
- Many of the problems and changes in the Ruhr have also been experienced in other industrial regions in the EU such as South Wales.
The Ruhr today
- There is still a large workforce living in the area that have had to learn new skills as industries have changed.
- New industries, eg electronics, are moving in to replace the traditional heavy industries.
- Much of the derelict land has been improved to provide a more pleasant living and working environment.
- The Ruhr has good access to much of the EU and is once again an attractive location for industry.
Case study: footloose industry in the UK
Footloose industries are not tied to a particular location. They include high-tech industries and are located near motorway junctions or on the edges of towns and cities in business parks. The products are often electronics and computer components.
Examples include Silicon Glen in Scotland and the M4 corridor. Some of the benefits of locating an industry in the M4 corridor are shown in the diagram below.
The M4 corridor
Inputs and outputs
Cambridge Science Park
- The M4 corridor stretches from Heathrow airport in the east to Bath and Bristol in the west. The corridor is home to companies such as Hewlett Packard and Sony who are involved in research and development (quaternary industry) and have links with universities who provide well-qualified graduates.
- Few raw materials are used and therefore transport costs are low, making the industries ‘footloose’.
- Land on the edge of cities is often cheaper than in the centre. The out of town surroundings and easy access to workers in the suburbs provides an ideal location for building science and business parks.
- Motorway links and railways also provide access for commuters and for transporting components and products.
- Workers wanting to live near their place of work increases the demand for housing and puts pressure on green belt land.
- As demand grows, house prices increase. This means that less skilled and lower paid workers are priced out of the market in desirable areas.