Economic inactivity by qualification level

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Last updated 4 March 2018 - see all updates

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, at most qualification levels, White people were less likely to be economically inactive compared with other ethnic groups

  • for all ethnic groups, people with lower qualification levels were more likely to be economically inactive than people with higher qualification levels

  • the differences in economic inactivity between White and other ethnic groups were larger for women than for men

Things you need to know

This analysis is based on the Annual Population Survey (APS), which is a ‘sample survey’. It collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable, or ‘statistically significant’, findings. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the APS are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

Smaller numbers of survey respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds mean that estimates for all Other ethnic groups are more unreliable than estimates for White people (which includes White British and White ethnic minorities).

Results taken from a low number of responses are more likely to be affected by statistical variation, so observed changes might not reflect real differences. As such, caution is needed when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for sub groups (for example, a specific ethnic group, age group and gender).

When looking at data for ‘All’ groups, any values based on fewer than 30 responses have been withheld, and when further breaking down the data by ethnicity, any values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld. This is to protect confidentiality or because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.

Data is sourced from the Annual Population Survey to get lower level details such as information by local authority area. Higher-level figures may differ slightly from reports published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that also use the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Changes were made to the LFS (and therefore the Annual Population Survey) ethnicity questions in January to March 2011, to bring them more in line with Census data collection on these topics. In April to June 2011 further changes were made to the ethnicity questions to bring them in line with Scottish Census data collection. As a result, there may be some inconsistencies with estimates from earlier than 2011.

The ethnic groupings used here are broad; there is no breakdown of data for the more specific ethnic groups each contains. Some of the specific ethnic groups have very different experiences to one another. For example, the Black ethnic group could include both recent migrants from Somalia and Black people born in Britain to British parents.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of people aged 16 to 64 years who are economically inactive and not in full-time education. This is broken down by their highest level of qualification and ethnicity.

A person of working age is counted as economically inactive if:

  • they are out of work
  • they have not been actively looking for work in the past 4 weeks
  • they are not waiting to start a job

People who are caring for their family or retired are also counted as economically inactive.

Qualification level refers to the highest qualification gained by an individual. It is broken down into 5 broad categories:

  • level 4 or higher: higher national diploma (HND); degree; higher degree-level qualifications, or equivalent
  • level 3: two or more A levels; advanced general national vocational qualification (GNVQ); national vocational qualification (NVQ) 2, 3 or higher; higher or advanced higher national qualifications (Scotland), or equivalent
  • level 2: five or more GCSEs at grades A to C; intermediate GNVQ; NVQ 2; intermediate 2 national qualification (Scotland), or equivalent
  • below level 2: fewer than 5 GCSEs at grades A to C; foundation GNVQ; NVQ 1; intermediate 1 national qualification (Scotland), or equivalent
  • no qualifications

Trade apprenticeships are treated as being 50% NVQ level 2 and 50% NVQ level 3. This is in line with Office for National Statistics guidelines.

In the charts and tables, ‘other qualifications’ include:

  • foreign qualifications
  • some professional qualifications where the level of qualification is not clear
The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 broad ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White (including White ethnic minorities)
  • Other

2. Economic inactivity by ethnicity and qualification level

Percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 19 26 20 21 18 27
Level 4 and above 11 14 10 9 11 19
Level 3 15 26 18 17 14 25
Level 2 21 29 24 28 21 32
Below Level 2 26 33 30 35 25 44
Other qualifications 21 31 27 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 18 27
No qualifications 51 58 51 57 50 52

Download table data for ‘Economic inactivity by ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Economic inactivity by ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV)

Summary of Economic inactivity by qualification level Economic inactivity by ethnicity and qualification level Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, at every qualification level except 4 or above, a smaller percentage of White people were economically inactive compared with all other ethnic groups

  • among people with level 4 qualifications or above, a similar percentage of the Asian, Black, Mixed and White ethnic groups were economically inactive, at 14%, 10%, 9% and 11% respectively

  • for all ethnic groups, a smaller percentage of people with level 4 qualifications or above were economically inactive compared with those with lower-level qualifications

  • the largest difference between ethnic groups was found among those with below level 2 qualifications: 25% of White people with these qualifications were economically inactive, compared with 44% for people from the Other ethnic group

  • among those with no qualifications, people from the White, Black and Other ethnic groups had a similar percentage of economically inactive people, at 50%, 51% and 52% respectively

3. Economically inactive men by ethnicity and qualification level

Percentage of 16 to 64 year old men who were economically inactive and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 13% 12% 14% 16% 13% 16%
Level 4 and above 7% 5% 5% 7% 8% 9%
Level 3 11% 15% 9% 8% 11% 16%
Level 2 15% 16% 16% 17% 15% 23%
Below level 2 16% 13% 21% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 16% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 13% 11% 16% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 13% 17%
No qualifications 40% 35% 53% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 40% 34%

Download table data for ‘Economically inactive men by ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Economically inactive men by ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV)

Summary of Economic inactivity by qualification level Economically inactive men by ethnicity and qualification level Summary

This data shows that:

  • among men with level 4 qualifications, those from the White and Other ethnic groups were most likely to be economically inactive (at 8% and 9% respectively), and those from the Asian ethnic group were least likely to be (at 5%)

  • among men with no qualifications, 40% were economically inactive overall – Asian men were least likely to be economically inactive (at 35%) and Black men most likely to be (at 53%)

  • although the chart shows differences in economic inactivity between other ethnic groups at these and other qualification levels, sample sizes for these groups are small and any generalisations based on these results are very unreliable

4. Economically inactive women by ethnicity and qualification level

Percentage of 16 to 64 year old women who were economically inactive and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 25% 41% 24% 26% 24% 38%
Level 4 and above 15% 24% 13% 10% 14% 28%
Level 3 19% 36% 25% 25% 18% 34%
Level 2 27% 42% 29% 38% 26% 42%
Below level 2 35% 53% 39% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 34% 55%
Other qualifications 32% 54% 39% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 26% 39%
No qualifications 61% 78% 49% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 59% 70%

Download table data for ‘Economically inactive women by ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Economically inactive women by ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV)

Summary of Economic inactivity by qualification level Economically inactive women by ethnicity and qualification level Summary

This data shows that:

  • at every qualification level except 4 and above, White women were less likely to be economically inactive than women from all other ethnic groups

  • among women with level 4 qualifications, women from the Other ethnic group were most likely to be economically inactive, at 28%, followed by Asian women (at 24%), White women (at 14%), Black women (at 13%), and women with Mixed ethnicity (at 10%)

  • among women with no qualifications, Asian women were most likely to be economically inactive (at 78%), and Black women were least likely to be (at 49%)

  • although the chart shows differences in economic inactivity between other ethnic groups at these and other qualification levels, sample sizes for these groups are small and any generalisations based on these results are very unreliable

5. Methodology

The Annual Population Survey is a continuous household survey. Most people are interviewed in person first, and later by telephone. The sample is formed partly from waves 1 and 5 of the Labour Force Survey (in which selected addresses are contacted every 3 months) and partly from boost cases that are in the sample for 4 waves, spread one year apart.

Participants are randomly selected from the Royal Mail Postcode address File (PAF). The NHS communal accommodation list is also used and (in the case of remote parts of Scotland) telephone directories. All eligible individuals found at the selected address may be interviewed. Individuals are included in the dataset for this analysis if they respond themselves or if a family member responds on their behalf. The complex survey design has been taken into account when calculating confidence intervals.

Weighting:

The achieved sample of approximately 275,000 undergoes weighting which is structured at local authority level and uses age and sex dimensions.

Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% females and 75% males will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know is around 50% male and 50% female.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

Survey weights are usually applied to make sure the survey sample has broadly the same gender, age, ethnic and geographic make up as the general population.

The Office for National Statistics population estimates and projections are used as the basis for this weighting process.

Confidence intervals:

Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available if you download the data.

The APS is based on a sample of 16 to 64 year olds, rather than all 16 to 64 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland. This measure makes reliable estimates of the percentage of people in this age bracket who were employed, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

Based on the APS results, it’s estimated that 50% of of White 16 to 64 year olds with no qualifications who are not in full-time education were economically inactive in 2016.

The APS is based on a sample of 16 to 64 year olds, rather than all 16 to 64 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland. This measure makes reliable estimates of the percentage of people in this age bracket in England, Wales and Scotland who were economically inactive, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 48.7% and 50.4% of all White 16 to 64 year olds with no educational qualifications in England, Wales and Scotland who were not in full-time education were economically inactive in 2016. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall in this range (that is, between the upper and lower confidence interval). But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer 16 to 64 year olds from the Asian ethnic group responded to the survey than their White counterparts, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, for example of between 53.9% and 62.3% for Asians aged 16 to 64 in 2016.

Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap with the value for all ethnicities in England, Wales and Scotland.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

In data covering all ethnic groups together, estimates based on sample sizes of less than 30 have been suppressed. For data broken down by ethnic groups, estimates based on sample sizes under 100 have been suppressed.

‘Suppression’ means these figures have not been included in the data, to protect confidentiality and because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.

Breaking the figures down by gender and the relatively smaller overall population of those who are unemployed reduces sample sizes further and makes the figures less reliable.

Data been suppressed at some qualification levels for the Mixed and Other groups because of the very small numbers.

Rounding

Estimates in the charts and tables are rounded to whole percentages. Estimates in the download file are rounded to 1 decimal place.

Quality and methodology information

6. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest household survey in the UK and covers topics, including:

  • personal characteristics
  • labour market status
  • work characteristics
  • education
  • health

The purpose of the APS is to provide information on social and socio-economic variables at local levels, such as labour market estimates.

The published statistics also allow the government to monitor estimates between Censuses.

7. Download the data