WEST SOMERSET has the highest percentage of key workers in the whole of the UK.

Out of 378 local authorities, the coastal and countryside area ranked in first place with 51.3 per cent of its work force classes as essential.

Taunton Deane has also ranked highly, in 21st place, with 41.3 per cent of its work forced designated as a key worker.

Sedgemoor ranked further down in the list at 336th in the list with 27.3 per cent of key workers, while Mendip was 62nd with 37.6 per cent, and South Somerset was 89th, with 36.3 per cent of its work force being designated as key workers.

The government announced its list of job roles it deems as essential at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The roles are broken down into eight sections: health and social care; education and childcare; key public services; local and national government; food and other necessary goods; public safety and national security; transport; and utilities, communication and financial services.

The data is based on who was employed in a key worker occupation in 2019.

Across the UK, 10.6million people employed, or 33 per cent of the total workforce, were in key worker occupations and industries in 2019.

The majority of those people work within health and social care, second in education in childcare, and third in utilities and communication.

The data shows the industry most represented in the lowest-paid group was within food and necessary goods. Nine per cent of this group have earnings of under £146.26 a week.

The South West has the lowest number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the country, and also has one of the most elderly populations.

Graham Sizer, chairman of Minehead Chamber of Commerce, says the high levels of key workers is due to the area’s ageing population.

While perhaps some may think West Somerset would have a high level of tourism workers, and even key workers in industries involving fruit picking, Mr Sizer says the area follows the trend of the UK, with social care employing the most people.

“It is a well known fact that West Somerset has one of the highest proportion of retired people in the country,” he said.

“It follows that we must have a pretty high number of residents needing care whether at home or in residential establishments. Yet those employed in this vital sector, until the pandemic raised their profile, remained under valued, and to a great degree overlooked by national statisticians.

“Our local council has traditionally followed outdated employment figures that land on their desks, choosing to highlight categories such as agriculture, a sector that lost dominance 60 years ago.

“The care sector is diverse, and covers many self employed workers most of whom have no fixed place of work, and no fixed income. They are underpaid and under appreciated except by the elderly they serve.

“The Silver Economy is massive and those in care play a major part.”

A range of key workers have been keeping things running across Somerset.

Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council, which covers Taunton Deane and West Somerset, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “We have many key workers among us in the Somerset West and Taunton area working tirelessly to protect and support us all.

"I am grateful to each and every one for the way they have responded to this unprecedented pandemic, including council staff who have been working to preserve critical services, safeguard the public, and ensure our most vulnerable residents are supported.

" I know I speak for many when I say how proud I am of all our key workers and the army of volunteers who have stepped up to support them and the wider community.”

To view the figures visit bit.ly/KeyworkerStats.