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Households that never work and households that will not stop

Nigel Williams, 29 August 2013

Household employment figures are out for another quarter, reaching to June 2013. They contain a wealth of subdivisions to show how the patterns are changing. The major focus is those households where no adult is in employment and its extreme variant, the household where no-one has ever worked.

The main reason for a household having never worked is education. 240,000 out of the half million people in that situation were still studying in June. Unless we redefine our typical career path so that people generally start work at 18 and resume their studies at a later date, as could happen, the statistic will always need adjustment. The next biggest reason is ill health, followed by looking after the family home. Unemployment comes in fourth, accounting for only one in five of people not studying in such households. Still, 52,000 are looking for their household’s first ever job.

In all households without work, the number unemployed has remained just above one million for the last two years. Reductions in the number of people in workless households have happened among the retired (down 16 per cent), the ill or disabled (down 10 per cent) and those looking after the family or home (down 10 per cent). Deferring retirement and not choosing to stay at home and care are reducing the number of households voluntarily without work, whereas the number unemployed stays similar.

A second shift is taking place in accommodation. Worklessness is falling in the owner-occupied sector much faster than in private renting. In June 2010 there was approximately the same number of working-age households as in June 2013 but the number owned by their occupiers has fallen by 600,000 whereas over half a million more households are rented privately. This is a societal shift as a growing fraction of the population retains its housing beyond working age. A drop of 430,000 workless households since 2010 includes only 9,000 in private renting, against over 100,000 owned outright, a further 100,000 with a mortgage and 150,000 in social housing.

The subdivision by age shows that worklessness is falling fastest among older age groups. Since 2010 the number of people aged 50 to 64 in workless households has fallen around 100,000 each year. The over 65s belonging to households with an adult under 65 has also shown a reduction.  These facts fit with one another, since that age group is in a position to retain their socially rented or owner-occupied housing and to choose to defer retirement. Record proportions of households have at least one person in employment. Almost the same is true for unemployment. At 38.9 per cent, the proportion of working-age households electing to maintain someone economically inactive is the lowest it has ever been.House Husband


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