Economic inactivity by qualification level

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • 18% of working age people (16 to 64 year olds) were ‘economically inactive’ in 2019 – this broadly means they were out of work and not actively looking for work or in full-time education
  • in every ethnic group, 16 to 64 year olds with a level 4 qualification or above (equivalent to degree level) were less likely to be economically inactive than those with lower level qualifications
  • at almost all qualification levels, White 16 to 64 year olds were the least likely to be economically inactive out of all ethnic groups
  • in every ethnic group, women had higher rates of economic inactivity than men
  • Asian women had the highest rate of economic inactivity out of all ethnic groups

2. Things you need to know

What the data measures

The data measures the percentage of working age people (16 to 64 year olds) who were ‘economically inactive’.

A person of working age is economically inactive if they are:

  • out of work
  • not actively looking for work
  • not waiting to start a job
  • not in full-time education
  • caring for their family
  • retired

The data also shows rates of economic inactivity for each qualification level, which relates to someone’s highest qualification.

The qualification levels are:

  • level 4 or above (degree level or equivalent)
  • level 3 (2 or more A levels or equivalent)
  • level 2 (5 or more GCSE passes at grades 4 to 9 or equivalent)
  • below level 2 (fewer than 5 GCSE passes at grades 4 to 9 or equivalent)
  • no qualifications
  • other qualifications, including those from outside the UK and some professional qualifications where the level is not clear

Percentages in the charts and tables are rounded to whole numbers.

Not included in the data

The data does not include estimates based on fewer than:

  • 30 people for data for all ethnic groups combined
  • 100 people for data by ethnicity

This is to protect people’s confidentiality and because the numbers involved are too small to make reliable generalisations.

The ethnic groups used in the data

Estimates are shown for the following 5 aggregated ethnic groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

This is because the number of people surveyed was too small to make any reliable conclusions about any of the 18 ethnic groups.

Methodology

Read the detailed methodology document for this data.

The Annual Population Survey updated its ethnicity questions in 2011. As a result, estimates from before and after 2011 may not be consistent, and data for individual ethnic groups in 2011 is not available.

The figures on this page are based on survey data. Find out more about:

In the data file

See Download the data for:

  • estimates rounded to 1 decimal place
  • confidence intervals for each ethnic group – find out more about how we use confidence intervals to determine how reliable estimates are
  • estimates for 2 ethnic groups, White and Other than White

3. By ethnicity and qualification level

Percentage of people aged 16 to 64 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 18% 25% 19% 19% 17% 25%
Level 4 and above 11% 13% 12% 10% 11% 16%
Level 3 14% 23% 16% 16% 14% 26%
Level 2 21% 33% 26% 29% 20% 27%
Below Level 2 25% 33% 24% 29% 25% 32%
Other qualifications 20% 31% 21% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 17% 30%
No qualifications 48% 52% 48% 54% 48% 53%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level’ (CSV)

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

The data shows that:

  • 18% of people aged 16 to 64 were economically inactive in 2019
  • at almost all qualification levels, White 16 to 64 year olds were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to be economically inactive
  • among 16 to 64 year olds with level 2 qualifications (such as 5 GCSE passes), those from the Asian ethnic group had the highest rate of economic inactivity out of all ethnic groups (33%)
  • in every ethnic group, a lower percentage of 16 to 64 year olds with a level 4 qualification or above (equivalent to degree level) were economically inactive compared with people with lower level qualifications
  • among 16 to 64 year olds with no qualifications, those from the Mixed ethnic group had the highest rate of economic inactivity (54%), while White people and Black people had the lowest (both 48%)

4. By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)

Percentage of men aged 16 to 64 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 13% 12% 15% 15% 13% 15%
Level 4 and above 8% 5% 8% 4% 8% 7%
Level 3 11% 9% 10% 13% 11% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Level 2 15% 19% 20% 29% 14% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Below Level 2 18% 18% 19% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 17% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 12% 14% 15% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 11% 13%
No qualifications 39% 28% 38% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 40% 36%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)’ (CSV)

Summary of Economic inactivity by qualification level By ethnicity and qualification level (men only) Summary

The data shows that:

  • 13% of men aged 16 to 64 were economically inactive in 2019
  • among men with a level 4 qualification or above (equivalent to degree level), men from the Mixed ethnic group had the lowest economic inactivity rate out of all ethnic groups (4%)
  • among men with no qualifications, White men were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be economically inactive (40%) – Asian men were the least likely (28%)

5. By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)

Percentage of women aged 16 to 64 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 23% 38% 23% 23% 22% 35%
Level 4 and above 14% 22% 14% 14% 13% 22%
Level 3 18% 36% 21% 20% 17% 35%
Level 2 27% 46% 31% 30% 25% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Below Level 2 33% 50% 29% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 32% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 31% 48% 29% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 26% 49%
No qualifications 59% 75% 58% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 56% 70%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)’ (CSV)

Summary of Economic inactivity by qualification level By ethnicity and qualification level (women only) Summary

The data shows that:

  • 23% of women aged 16 to 64 were economically inactive in 2019
  • at almost all qualification levels, White women were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to be economically inactive – for qualifications below level 2, Black women were least likely
  • among women with a level 4 qualification or above (equivalent to degree level), women from the Other and Asian ethnic groups were the most likely to be economically inactive (both 22%)
  • among women with no qualifications, Asian women were the most likely to be economically inactive (75%) – White women were the least likely (56%)

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