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London at night: An updated evidence base for a 24 hour city

This blog summarises our recently published work on London’s night time economy.


GLA Economics published an Evidence Base for a 24 Hour City in 2018 to support the Mayor of London, the Night Czar, the Night-Time Commission, and boroughs on night-time planning and strategies.

The March 2024 update to the evidence base shows the latest findings and changes over time since the first publication.

The GLA defines the ‘night’ as everything that happens between 6pm and 6am. London’s ‘nightlife’, what people do for culture and leisure, is an important part of this. Night workers are those who work at any time between 6pm and 6am. And the ‘night-time industries’ are a night-time category of industries and occupations with relatively high proportions of night workers.

This blog is split into the following sections:

  • Working at night
  • London’s 24 hour economy
  • Out-and-about at night
  • Late night travel

Working at night

People of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels work at night. London had 1.32 million night workers in 2023, making up 25% of the city’s workforce. However, the number and share of night workers are both down from the 2017 level. In 2017, London had 1.60 million night workers that accounted for 30% of the workforce. The downward trend mirrors the falling number of night workers in the UK. London’s rate of 25% of workers working at night in 2023 was just below the rest-of-UK average of 26%.

There have been notable changes in the scale and prevalence of night working across different industries. The industries with the highest number of night workers in London in 2023 were Professional services, Health and Transport & storage. These three sectors accounted for more than 40%, or 560,000, of London’s night workers (see Figure A1). Regarding within-industry shares, night workers made up the biggest share of the workforce in the Transport and storage (55%) and the Arts & recreation (55%) sectors. Hospitality also had a large share of night-workers (48% or 77,000) however it has lost nearly half its night-time workforce since 2017 when 151,000 worked at night.

Figure A1: Night workers by industry, 2015-2023. Number of night workers within selected sectors in London

Night workers by industry, 2015-2023. Number of night workers within selected sectors in London

Source: Labour Force Survey 2015-2023, UK Data Service.
Notes: Based on place of work.

Night work plays a big part in the economies of outer London boroughs. Of London’s 1.32 million night workers, 581,000 live in Outer London, 544,000 live in Inner London and 222,000 live outside London. Most workers live and work in the same zones at night. Westminster has the highest share of London’s night workers (6.8%) but large concentrations are also found in outer London boroughs such as Hillingdon (4.8%), Bromley (4.3%) and Barnet (4.3%). Working at night is more likely in Outer London than in Inner London. Redbridge (35%), Havering (34%) and Harrow (34%) have the highest shares of night workers to daytime workers.

Inequalities in pay and conditions are often worse for night workers compared to daytime-only workers. Night work can have negative impacts on health and sleep. Although people from all groups work at night, younger workers are more likely to work evenings and nights in London. Of London’s night workers in 2023, 796,000 were men (60%) and 525,000 were women (40%). Night workers are more likely to have been born overseas than day workers. One in three night-workers (421,000 people) in London in 2023 were from the Black and minority ethnic population.

Although workers in night-time industries (other than 24-hour health and personal services) remain more likely on average to be paid below the LLW than those in other industries, the number of workers in night-time industries earning below the London Living Wage (LLW) fell from 378,000 in 2015 to 257,000 in 2022.

London’s 24 hour economy

Most parts of London’s near-£520 billion economy are active around the clock. Night time and late night activity is more prevalent in some industries and occupations than others — we call these night-time industries and night-time occupations. In 2018, The London Night-Time Commission’s Data and Research Group designed a Night-Time classification which we use in this report.

The four main categories of night-time industries (NTIs) are:

1) Cultural and leisure activities,

2) Activities which support night-time cultural and leisure activities,

3) 24-hour health and personal services, and

4) Activities which support wider social and economic activities.

We refer to people working in these industries as workers in night-time industries. It should be noted that these workers include people working during the day, and because it is a different way of quantifying working at night, and from a different data source, the numbers are different to the night-workers described above.

The NTIs have been growing, both in terms of employment and by number of businesses. The number of employee jobs (including working owners) in London’s NTIs has grown by 151,000 (8.9%) since 2017. Cultural & Leisure, the fastest growing NTI, accounted for 38% of employee jobs in the NTIs in 2022. The number of London business sites in the NTIs rose by 11.3% between 2017 and 2023 to 135,700.

Jobs in the NTIs are distributed across London. The Central Activities Zone (CAZ) contains a high share (42%) of the number of employees in the Cultural & Leisure industries but only 26% of Health workers, 24% of Support for Cultural & Leisure and 36% of Wider Social & Economic activities.

One in every four pounds is spent at night.[1] Night-time spending grew strongly from early 2022 through to the end of the summer then levelled off in 2023. Night-time spend typically peaks on a Friday evening in London as a whole. However, the spend peaks on Thursday evenings in the CAZ. Saturday nights see the most post-midnight spend.

For many boroughs and town centres outside the CAZ, the night-time is key part of the economy, in some places accounting for around one-third of all in-store card spending. These boroughs include Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Lambeth. In Hackney, for instance, over one-third (36%) of all spending takes place between 6pm and 6am, while the London average is 25% (See Figure A2).

Figure A2: Spend share in London, by day and night

Spend share in London, by day and night

Source: Mastercard Index Oct-Dec 2023, GLA High Streets Data Service analysis

Pubs and late-night licencing are key parts of the night time economy. London pub numbers had stabilised at around 3,600 in 2022 after 15 years of declining. Meanwhile, London’s licenced premises numbers have risen strongly over the last decade. London had around 36,000 licensed premises in 2021/22. Of these, around 31,000 had licences to sell alcohol. The number of premises with a 24-hour alcohol licence in Greater London increased by around 65% from around 1,200 in 2011/12 to around 1,900 in 2021/22. However, in the late-night refreshment licence category (anywhere selling hot food or drinks after 11pm e.g.  takeaways), there has been a small (4%) drop from around 17,600 in 2011/12 to 17,200 in 2021/22.

Out-and-about at night

In this section we use BT Mobility data to show how night-time footfall has changed over the last two years and which boroughs and town centres see the most visitors from 6pm to 6am.

Over 2 million visitors are out-and-about in London on a typical weekend night between 9pm and midnight. Around 1 million are out even later, between midnight and 3am, while the early evening (6pm-9pm) typically sees 3-4 million visitors.

The Central Activities Zone is a key attraction for night-time visitors: Westminster typically sees nearly 400,000 visitors from 6pm to midnight, averaged across Thursday to Saturday nights. Some Outer London boroughs see just one-tenth (approximately) of that number, with Kingston-upon-Thames, Barking and Dagenham, Sutton and Bexley all seeing fewer than 40,000 visitors in that time period.

The West End and other iconic destinations are the most visited town centres in the CAZ. The West End is by far the busiest destination from 6pm to midnight, with more than 140,000 visitors on a typical Thursday to Saturday night (See Figure A3). Looking at the physical density of visitors, destinations within the City and Westminster (Liverpool Street, Covent Garden, West End and Wentworth Street) represent the four densest hotspots from 6pm to midnight.

While Westminster is the most popular borough around the clock, some boroughs have a night-time offer that is relatively more important than their day-time offer. Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Lambeth typically have visitor numbers from 6pm to midnight on Thursdays to Saturdays that are just 24% to 32% lower than on a Saturday afternoon.

Town centres outside the CAZ, from Whitechapel to Wembley and from Camden Town to Clapham High Street, are also big draws for night-time activity (see Figure A4). Nine of the top 20 hotspots are outside the CAZ.

Travel hubs are also important for night-time activity. Town centres around many of London’s largest national rail stations are well represented in the top 20 hotspots.

Figure A3: Night-time visitor hotspots across London, Thursday to Saturday, 6pm-12am

Night-time visitor hotspots across London, Thursday to Saturday, 6pm-12am

Source: BT Mobility footfall 2023, GLA High Streets Data Service analysis

Figure A4: Night-time visitor hotspots across London, Thursday to Saturday, 12am-6am

Night-time visitor hotspots across London, Thursday to Saturday, 12am-6am

Source: BT Mobility footfall 2023, GLA High Streets Data Service analysis

Late night travel

The pandemic has had a considerable effect on travel in London, with TfL road, underground and bus services all seeing less demand at the end of 2023 compared to the pre-pandemic period. To understand patterns of night travel in London, TfL and the GLA carried out a follow-up survey to the January 2020 Late Night Travel Survey in January 2024.

The findings from the Late Night Travel Survey show – perhaps surprisingly – that late night travel in London has returned to pre-pandemic patterns in terms of mode share, trip purpose and perception of the main barriers to using public transport at night.

One third of Londoners travel at night (defined as between 11pm and 5am) at least once a month, with a significant minority (10%) doing so at least three times a week. Just over half (53%) of those travelling at night are predominantly travelling for leisure purposes, around 22% to visit friends and family, and 19% to work.

Women are less likely to travel at night, with 37% never doing so, compared to 30% of men. Young people are much more likely to travel at night. All age groups are more likely to use public transport when travelling at night.

Understanding barriers to late night travel is crucial for developing targeted interventions to improve safety perceptions and encourage greater late night public transport use. The most significant barriers to using public transport late at night are concerns related to safety and security. The morning peak times, late morning, and early afternoon are generally considered very or fairly safe while late at night is perceived as the least safe.

Addressing safety concerns, enhancing lighting at transport hubs, and implementing targeted security measures can contribute to creating a more inclusive and secure late night travel environment for all.

Further information

London at Night: An Updated Evidence Base for a 24 Hour City is available to download from the London Datastore at:–research-and-analysis. It contains details of the sources and methodologies used. All of the data used to produce the report, and the more than 50 charts and tables it contains, is also available for download from the same page on the Datastore, along with other recent analysis of working at night and the experiences of night-workers.

[1] The proportion of in-store town centre retail spending that happens
between 6pm and 6am