Economic inactivity

The main facts and figures show that:

  • 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:

Asian:

  • Indian
  • Pakistani or Bangladeshi
  • Any other Asian ethnicity (including Chinese)

Black

Mixed/multiple ethnicities

White:

  • 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).

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Economic inactivity by ethnicity

Percentage and number of people aged 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive within each ethnic group

Ethnicity % Total economically inactive
All 22 8,629,000
Asian 31 982,000
Indian 22 247,000
Pakistani and Bangladeshi 39 474,000
Asian other inc Chinese 32 262,000
Black 26 341,000
Mixed 27 147,000
White 20 6,885,000
White British 21 6,379,000
White other 16 506,000
Other 33 261,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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

Economic inactivity by ethnicity (White and Other ethnic groups)

Percentage and number of people aged 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive within the White ethnic group and all other ethnic groups combined (‘Other’)

Ethnicity % Total economically inactive
All 22 8,629,000
White 20 6,885,000
Other than White 30 1,732,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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

Economic inactivity by ethnicity over time

Percentage of people aged 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive within each ethnic group, over time

Ethnicity 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
% % % % % % % % % % % % % %
All 24 24 23 23 23 23 24 24 23 23 23 22 22 22
Asian 37 37 36 36 35 34 34 N/A* 33 33 32 32 32 31
Indian 27 26 25 26 26 25 24 N/A* 23 24 24 24 23 22
Pakistani and Bangladeshi 49 49 48 48 46 44 44 N/A* 42 41 40 40 39 39
Asian other inc Chinese 36 36 34 33 31 32 36 N/A* 34 36 33 32 34 32
Black 31 30 28 28 28 29 28 N/A* 27 26 27 26 25 26
Mixed 29 30 27 28 31 30 28 N/A* 29 26 28 28 28 27
White 23 22 22 22 22 22 23 N/A* 22 22 21 21 21 20
White British 22 22 22 22 22 22 23 N/A* 22 22 22 21 21 21
White other 25 23 21 21 21 21 21 N/A* 20 19 19 17 17 16
Other 38 36 36 36 35 36 35 N/A* 35 35 37 35 34 33

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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

Economic inactivity by ethnicity and gender

Percentage and number of people aged 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive within each ethnic group, by gender

All Men Women
Ethnicity % Total economically inactive % Total economically inactive % Total economically inactive
All 22 8,629,000 17 3,291,000 27 5,338,000
Asian 31 982,000 20 312,000 42 670,000
Indian 22 247,000 14 82,000 29 165,000
Pakistani and Bangladeshi 39 474,000 23 141,000 56 333,000
Asian other inc Chinese 32 262,000 24 89,000 39 173,000
Black 26 341,000 21 120,000 31 221,000
Mixed 27 147,000 25 64,000 29 83,000
White 20 6,885,000 16 2,699,000 25 4,187,000
White British 21 6,379,000 17 2,563,000 25 3,816,000
White other 16 506,000 9 136,000 22 371,000
Other 33 261,000 23 90,000 44 171,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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)

Economic inactivity by ethnicity and age group

Percentage and number of people aged 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive within each ethnic group, by age group

16-24 25-49 50-64 All (16-64)
Ethnicity % Total economically inactive % Total economically inactive % Total economically inactive % Total economically inactive
All 38 2,634,000 13 2,793,000 27 3,202,000 22 8,629,000
Asian 57 370,000 22 445,000 32 167,000 31 982,000
Indian 49 85,000 13 97,000 28 65,000 22 247,000
Pakistani and Bangladeshi 57 169,000 32 242,000 43 63,000 39 474,000
Asian other inc Chinese 65 116,000 22 106,000 27 39,000 32 262,000
Black 56 143,000 19 135,000 21 64,000 26 341,000
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
White 34 1,949,000 12 2,031,000 27 2,905,000 20 6,885,000
White British 34 1,782,000 12 1,804,000 27 2,793,000 21 6,379,000
White other 40 166,000 10 228,000 24 112,000 16 506,000
Other 63 84,000 26 136,000 31 42,000 33 261,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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

Economic inactivity among 16 to 24 year olds over time

Percentage of people aged 16 to 24 years who were economically inactive within each ethnic group, over time

Ethnicity 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
% % % % % % % % % % % % % %
All 32 32 33 33 34 35 38 37 37 38 39 37 38 38
Asian 53 54 51 54 52 55 58 N/A* 56 57 60 57 60 57
Indian 46 49 44 45 48 51 51 N/A* 46 54 58 54 59 49
Pakistani and Bangladeshi 56 55 52 56 52 54 56 N/A* 56 52 55 53 56 57
Asian other inc Chinese 57 60 60 62 59 65 70 N/A* 68 69 69 67 68 65
Black 47 50 48 49 53 52 55 N/A* 53 53 54 56 50 56
Mixed 39 41 38 39 45 47 45 N/A* 42 38 43 46 47 45
White 29 29 30 31 31 32 34 N/A* 34 35 35 34 35 34
White British 29 29 30 31 31 32 34 N/A* 34 34 35 34 35 34
White other 36 30 27 31 30 35 37 N/A* 44 42 41 36 36 40
Other 55 53 53 55 50 60 61 N/A* 58 63 65 59 61 63

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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

Economic inactivity by ethnicity and area

Percentage and number of people aged 16 to 24 years who were economically inactive within each ethnic group, by area

All White Other than White
region % Total economically active % Total economically active % Total economically active
All 22 8,629,000 20 6,885,000 30 1,732,000
East Midlands 22 654,000 21 534,000 34 119,000
East of England 19 721,000 19 628,000 24 93,000
London 22 1,319,000 18 653,000 28 662,000
North East 25 405,000 24 374,000 36 31,000
North West 24 1,053,000 22 878,000 35 175,000
Scotland 23 769,000 22 705,000 36 63,000
South East 19 1,031,000 18 898,000 23 131,000
South West 19 616,000 18 570,000 26 45,000
Wales 24 455,000 23 419,000 37 36,000
West Midlands 24 841,000 21 606,000 35 234,000
Yorkshire and The Humber 23 766,000 21 620,000 37 144,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

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

Methodology

Methodology

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.

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 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:

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.

Rounding

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

Data sources

Source

Annual Population Survey

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Department for Work and Pensions

Publication frequency

Quarterly

Purpose of data source

Survey data, collected to allow analysis of labour market and related topics at a more detailed level than is possible in the Labour Force Survey.

Download the data

economic-inactivity-by-region.csv

This file contains the following variables: measure, year, region, ethnicity, ethnicity_type, sex, age_band, value, confidence_interval, numerator, denominator, samp_size

economic-inactivity-by-local-authority.csv

This file contains the following variables: measure, age_band, year, local_authority, ethnicity, ethnicity_type, value, confidence_interval, numerator, denominator, samp_size