Last updated 20 May 2019 - see all updates
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- 1. Navigate to Main facts and figures section
- 2. Navigate toBy ethnicity section
- 3. Navigate toBy ethnicity (2 ethnic groups) section
- 4. Navigate toBy ethnicity over time section
- 5. Navigate toBy ethnicity and gender section
- 6. Navigate toBy ethnicity and age group section
- 7. Navigate toBy ethnicity and age group over time (16 to 24 year olds only) section
- 8. Navigate toBy ethnicity and area section
- 9. Navigate to Methodology section
- 10. Navigate to Data sources section
- 11. Navigate to Download the data section
1. Main facts and figures
- in 2017, the total working age population (people aged 16 to 64 years) in England, Wales and Scotland was just under 40 million – of those, just over 34 million people were White, and nearly 6 million people were from all other ethnic groups combined
- the main definition of economic inactivity is if a person is out of work and not looking for a job – in 2017, there were 8.6 million economically inactive people in England, with 6.9 million coming from White ethnic groups, and 1.7 million from all other ethnic groups combined
- the economic inactivity rate in 2017 was 20% for White people and 30% for people from all other ethnic groups combined, a difference of 9 percentage points – the economic inactivity rate is the number of economically inactive people as a percentage of the total working age population
- in 2017, 56% of Pakistani/Bangladeshi women were economically inactive, compared with 23% of Pakistani/Bangladeshi Men (a gap of 33 percentage points), and 25% of White British women (a gap of 31 percentage points)
Things you need to know
The Annual Population Survey (APS) 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.
Results taken from a sample which has 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. When further breaking down the data by individual ethnic groups, any values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld. This is to protect respondents’ confidentiality or because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.
Data is sourced from the APS to get more detailed information such as economic inactivity 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.
Changes were made to the APS ethnicity questions in 2011, to make them more consistent with ethnicity questions in the national Census and Scottish Census. As a result, there may be some inconsistencies between estimates from before and after 2011, and data on economic inactivity rates for individual ethnic groups in 2011 is not available.
What the data measures
This data measures the rate of economic inactivity rate for different ethnic groups in England, Wales and Scotland. Data is also broken down by gender, age group and area.
The rate of economic inactivity is the number of people who are economically inactive as a percentage of the total working age population (people aged 16 to 64 years). 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.
A person in full-time education is counted as economically inactive unless they are either:
- in paid work, in which case they are counted as employed
- looking for, and available to start, work, in which case they are counted as unemployed
The figures come from the Annual Population Survey, which is a general household survey covering the UK. It uses data from the Labour Force Survey as well as other local data.
The ethnic categories used in this data
Data is shown for the following ethnic groups:
- Pakistani or Bangladeshi
- Any other Asian ethnicity (including Chinese)
- White British
- White other
Any other ethnic group
Where data is broken down by gender, age group, and area, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories, so data is shown for the following 2 categories:
- White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
- Other – all other ethnic minorities
People whose ethnicity is 'Unknown' (because their ethnicity was not recorded or they chose not to state their ethnicity) are counted when calculating the total number of people in employment (shown as the ‘All’ group in the data).
2. By ethnicity
|Ethnicity||%||Total economically inactive|
|Pakistani and Bangladeshi||39||474,000|
|Asian other including Chinese||32||262,000|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity Summary
This data shows that:
- overall, in 2017, 22% of the working age population (people aged 16 to 64 years) were economically inactive, or around 8.6 million people – a person is economically inactive if they’re out of work and not looking for a job, and the economic inactivity rate is the number of economically inactive people as a percentage of the total working age population
- 39% of people in the Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group were economically inactive, the highest rate out of all ethnic groups
- 16% of people in the Other White ethnic group were economically inactive, the lowest rate out of all ethnic groups
3. By ethnicity (2 ethnic groups)
|Ethnicity||%||Total economically inactive|
|Other than White||30||1,732,000|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity (2 ethnic groups)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity (2 ethnic groups)’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity (2 ethnic groups) Summary
This data shows that:
- in 2017, 20% of working age people (aged 16 to 64 years) in the White ethnic group were economically inactive, or 6.9 million people
- 30% of working age people from all other ethnic groups combined were economically active, or 1.7 million people
4. By ethnicity over time
|Pakistani and Bangladeshi||49||49||48||48||46||44||44||N/A*||42||41||40||40||39||39|
|Asian other including Chinese||36||36||34||33||31||32||36||N/A*||34||36||33||32||34||32|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity over time Summary
This data shows that:
- between 2004 and 2017, the economic inactivity rate in the Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group fell from 49% to 39%, the biggest decrease out of all ethnic groups – however, the Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group consistently had the highest rate of economic inactivity throughout this period
- the next largest decrease was found in the Other White group, where the economic inactivity rate fell from 25% to 16% during the period studied
5. By ethnicity and gender
|Ethnicity||All %||All Total economically inactive||Men %||Men Total economically inactive||Women %||Women Total economically inactive|
|Pakistani and Bangladeshi||39||474,000||23||141,000||56||333,000|
|Asian other including Chinese||32||262,000||24||89,000||39||173,000|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and gender’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and gender’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity and gender Summary
This data shows that:
- overall, in 2017, 27% of women and 17% of men were economically inactive; women were more likely to be economically inactive than men in all ethnic groups
- the Mixed group had the highest economic inactivity rate for men (25%), and the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group had the highest rate for women (56%)
- the biggest difference between men and women in economic inactivity was found in the Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group, where 23% of men and 56% of women were economically inactive (a difference of 33 percentage points)
6. By ethnicity and age group
|Ethnicity||16-24 %||16-24 Total economically inactive||25-49 %||25-49 Total economically inactive||50-64 %||50-64 Total economically inactive||All (16-64) %||All (16-64) Total economically inactive|
|Pakistani and Bangladeshi||57||169,000||32||242,000||43||63,000||39||474,000|
|Asian other including Chinese||65||116,000||22||106,000||27||39,000||32||262,000|
|Mixed||45||83,000||15||42,000||withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable||withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable||27||147,000|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and age group’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and age group’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity and age group Summary
This data shows that:
- in 2017, in every ethnic group, people aged 16 to 24 years had the highest economic inactivity rate out of all three age groups – this is likely to reflect high levels of full-time education within this age group
- 65% of people aged 16 to 24 years in the Other Asian group were economically inactive, the highest rate out of all ethnic groups in this age group
- the second highest economic inactivity rate across all ethnic groups was for people aged 50 to 64 years
- among people aged between 25 and 64 years, the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group had the highest economic inactivity rates, at 32% for those aged 25 to 49 years, and 43% for those aged 50 to 64 years
- the White ethnic groups generally had the lowest economic inactivity rates across all age groups; the only exception was among people aged 50 to 64 years, where Black people had the lowest rate
7. By ethnicity and age group over time (16 to 24 year olds only)
|Pakistani and Bangladeshi||56||55||52||56||52||54||56||N/A*||56||52||55||53||56||57|
|Asian other including Chinese||57||60||60||62||59||65||70||N/A*||68||69||69||67||68||65|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and age group over time (16 to 24 year olds only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and age group over time (16 to 24 year olds only)’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity and age group over time (16 to 24 year olds only) Summary
This data shows that:
- between 2004 and 2017, among people aged 16 to 24 years, those in the Other Asian ethnic group consistently had the highest rate of economic inactivity
- people aged 16 to 24 years in the White British and Other White ethnic groups generally had the lowest rates of economic activity in the same period – those from White British group had the lowest rate of economic inactivity in every year except 2006 and 2008, when they had the second lowest rate after those from the Other White group
8. By ethnicity and area
|All||White||Other than White|
|region||All %||All Total economically active||White %||White Total economically active||Other than White %||Other than White Total economically active|
|East of England||19||721,000||19||628,000||24||93,000|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||23||766,000||21||620,000||37||144,000|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and area’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and area’ (CSV)
Summary of Economic inactivity By ethnicity and area Summary
This data shows that:
- in 2017, White people had a lower economic inactivity rate than people from all other ethnic groups combined in every region
- the biggest difference in economic inactivity between White people and those from all other ethnic groups combined was found in Yorkshire and the Humber – the economic inactivity rate was 21% for White people and 37% for those from all other ethnic groups combined (a difference of 16 percentage points)
- out of all regions, London, the South East and the South West had the lowest economic inactivity rates for the White group (all at 18%), and the South East and the East had the lowest rates for all other ethnic groups combined, at 23% and 24% respectively
The Annual Population Survey (APS) 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.
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 makeup as the general population.
The Office for National Statistics population estimates and projections are used as the basis for this weighting process.
Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available if you download the data.
Based on the APS, it is estimated that 20.2% of White people of working age were economically inactive in 2017.
The data from the APS is based on a sample of the population in England, Wales and Scotland, rather than the whole population. The estimate obtained from this sample is a reliable estimate of the percentage of individuals in working age that were economically inactive, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage for the whole population of working age.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 19.5% (lower bound of the confidence interval) and 20.9% (upper bound of the confidence interval) of White individuals of working age were economically inactive in 2017. 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 between the lower and upper bounds of the 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, the sample has less data for individuals from the Black ethnic group than from the White ethnic group, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, of between 22.3% and 30.5% for the Black ethnic group compared to 19.5% and 20.9% for the White ethnic group in 2017.
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.
Percentages are rounded to whole numbers in charts and tables. Download the data to see the percentages rounded to 1 decimal place. Calculations have been made using the unrounded figures.
Quality and methodology information
10. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Office for National Statistics
Note on corrections or updates
Higher-level figures may differ from those published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that use the Labour Force Survey.
Purpose of data source
The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK and covers a range of topics, including:
- personal characteristics
- labour market status
- work characteristics
The purpose of the APS is to provide information on important social and socio-economic variables at local levels, such as labour market estimates.
The published statistics also allow the government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between censuses.
11. Download the data
This file contains the following variables: measure, year, region, ethnicity, ethnicity_type, sex, age_band, value, confidence_interval, numerator, denominator, samp_size
This file contains the following variables: measure, age_band, year, local_authority, ethnicity, ethnicity_type, value, confidence_interval, numerator, denominator, samp_size