Students drive recent increases
Main reasons for economic inactivity for people of working age, UK
In July to September 2004, just under 8 million people of working age in the United Kingdom were either not looking for, or not available for, work and were therefore classified as being economically inactive. The working-age inactivity rate stood at 21.5 per cent for this period, 16.5 per cent for men and 26.9 per cent for women. This compares with 21.2 per cent five years earlier in 1999 when it was 15.5 per cent for men and 27.3 per cent for women.
The main groups classed as economically inactive are those looking after the family and home, students and those who are long-term sick or disabled.
The number of economically inactive people increased by 360,000 in the five years to July to September 2004. Students accounted for the largest part of this increase (310,000). The number of long-term sick grew by 10,000 in the same period.
As more young people stay in education for longer, the student group as a proportion of the working-age population is increasing. Students represent a large number of potential workers, highly likely to participate in the labour market at some time in the future. In July to September 2004, 28 per cent of inactive men (870,000) and 18 per cent of inactive women (840,000) cited studying as their reason for inactivity.
The number of inactive, long-term sick people of working age has fluctuated between 2.1 and 2.2 million since the late 1990s. In the latest quarter, 38 per cent of inactive men gave long-term sickness as their main reason for inactivity compared with 21 per cent of inactive women.
There were 2.3 million people looking after the family and home in July to September 2004 and this was the largest group among the inactive. This was given as a reason for inactivity by 45 per cent of inactive working-age women and 6 per cent of inactive working-age men. The size of this group has declined quite significantly in recent years as the number of women entering the labour market, particularly those with children, has increased.
Other main reasons for inactivity are retirement (590,000 people in the latest quarter, representing 13 per cent of inactive men and 4 per cent of women) and temporary sickness (200,000 people, representing 3 per cent of men and 2 per cent of women).
The economically inactive are those people who are not in work, but who do not satisfy all the critieria for ILO unemployment, that is, wanting a job, seeking in the last four weeks and available to start in the next two.
Students who are working, or who are seeking and are available for work, are classed as economically active and are therefore excluded from the above figures.
Working age is defined as 16-59 for women and 16-64 for men.