Economic inactivity

The main facts and figures show that:

  • in 2016, the total working age population in England, Wales and Scotland was just under 40 million, of which a little over 34 million people were White and nearly 6 million people were from other ethnic groups

  • in 2016, the economic inactivity rate – the number of people who are economically inactive as a percentage of the total working age population – was 21% for White British people and 30% for people from all other ethnic groups combined, a difference of 9 percentage points

  • in 2016, there were around 1.74 million economically inactive people from ethnic minorities (other than White ethnic minorities), which accounted for close to 20% of all people who were economically inactive

  • in 2016, the economic inactivity rate for Pakistani/Bangladeshi women was 59%, which is 33 percentage points higher than the rate for White British women

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.

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

Changes were made to the Labour Force Survey (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.

What the data measures

This data measures the ‘economic inactivity rate’ in England, Wales and Scotland across different ethnic groups.

The ‘economic inactivity rate’ is the number of people who are economically inactive as a percentage of the total ‘working age’ population. ‘Working age’ includes everyone 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 will be 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 (APS), 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

Where possible, data is broken down into 9 groups:

  • White British
  • White Other
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • Indian
  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi
  • Other Asian
  • Other ethnic groups
  • Unknown

However, in cases where the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories, the data is broken down into:

  • 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 in measurements for ‘All’ groups, such as all people in employment. However they are not counted where data is broken down by White and Other.

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Economic inactivity by ethnicity

Percentage and number of people who are economically inactive by ethnicity

Ethnicity % Number
All 22 8,835,000
Asian 32 997,000
Indian 23 261,000
Pakistani/Bangladeshi 39 460,000
Asian other 34 276,000
Black 25 337,000
Mixed 28 143,000
White 21 7,087,000
White British 21 6,590,000
White other 17 497,000
Other 34 260,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, approximately 8.84 million people of working age were economically inactive; this is around 22% of the working age population

  • the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group had the highest economic inactivity rate (39%), 18 percentage points higher than the White British group

  • the White Other group had the lowest economic inactivity rate (17%)

Economic inactivity by ethnicity (White and Other)

Percentage and number of people who are economically inactive by ethnicity (White and Other)

Ethnicity % Number
All 22 8,835,000
White 21 7,087,000
Other 30 1,737,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

  • in 2016, approximately 8.84 million people of working age were economically inactive; this is around 22% of the overall working age population

  • 7.09 million of those economically inactive people were White, which is around 21% of the White working age population

  • 1.74 million of those economically inactive people were from other ethnic groups, which is around 30% of the working age population from other ethnic groups

Economic inactivity by ethnicity over time

Percentage of people who are economically inactive by ethnicity over time

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

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Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2004 to 2016, the economic inactivity rate for the White Other group fell from 25% to 17%, and the rate for the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group fell from 49% to 39%

  • however, in the same period, the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group consistently had the highest rate of economic inactivity

Economic inactivity by ethnicity and gender

Percentage and number of economically inactive people by ethnicity and gender

Women Men
Ethnicity % Number % Number
All 27 5,497,000 17 3,339,000
Indian 32 177,000 14 84,000
Asian other 41 181,000 25 94,000
Pakistani/Bangladeshi 59 330,000 21 130,000
Black 29 214,000 21 123,000
Mixed 31 87,000 24 56,000
White British 26 3,971,000 17 2,619,000
White other 23 362,000 9 135,000
Other 45 168,000 24 92,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, women were more likely to be economically inactive than men in all ethnic groups

  • the Other Asian group had the highest economic inactivity rate for men (25%), and the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group had the highest rate for women (59%)

  • the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group saw the biggest gap in economic inactivity rate between men (21%) and women (59%), at 38 percentage points

Economic inactivity by ethnicity and age

Percentage and number of economically inactive people by ethnicity and age

16-24 25-49 50-64
Ethnicity % Number % Number % Number
All 38 2,671,000 14 2,937,000 27 3,226,000
Indian 59 94,000 14 108,000 27 59,000
Pakistani/Bangladeshi 56 150,000 32 243,000 46 67,000
Asian other 68 121,000 23 115,000 28 40,000
Black 50 140,000 18 131,000 22 66,000
Mixed 47 82,000 16 44,000 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
White British 35 1,866,000 12 1,893,000 27 2,831,000
White other 36 136,000 12 261,000 23 101,000
Other 61 79,000 28 140,000 32 41,000

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Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, people aged 16 to 24 years had the highest economic inactivity rate across all ethnic groups; this is likely to reflect high levels of full-time education within this age group

  • the next highest economic inactivity rate across all ethnic groups was for people aged 50 to 64 years

  • amongst people aged 16 to 24 years, the highest economic inactivity rate was for the Other Asian group, at 68%

  • amongst people aged 25 to 64 years, the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group had the highest economic inactivity rates, at 32% and 46% respectively

  • the White group consistently had the lowest economic inactivity rates across all age groups

Economic inactivity for 16 to 24 year olds over time

Percentage of economically inactive 16 to 24 year olds over time

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

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Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2004 to 2016, Other Asian 16 to 24 year olds consistently had the highest rate of economic inactivity

  • with the exception of 2008, White British 16 to 24 year olds had the lowest rate of economic inactivity over this period

  • White Other 16 to 24 year olds had the second lowest rate over this period, with the exception of 2008, when they had the lowest

Economic inactivity by ethnicity and area

Percentage and number of people who are economically inactive by ethnicity and area

White All other ethnic groups
Region % Number % Number
All 21 7,087,000 30 1,737,000
East Midlands 21 537,000 32 100,000
East of England 19 646,000 27 103,000
London 18 645,000 27 654,000
North East 24 372,000 36 32,000
North West 23 916,000 36 179,000
Scotland 23 728,000 38 64,000
South East 18 915,000 26 135,000
South West 19 606,000 26 45,000
Wales 25 445,000 39 34,000
West Midlands 22 621,000 35 255,000
Yorkshire and The Humber 22 656,000 36 135,000

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in all regions across the country in 2016, the White group had a lower economic inactivity rate than the other ethnic groups combined

  • the largest gap between the economic inactivity rate for White people and the rate for people from other ethnic groups was in Scotland, at 15 percentage points

  • London and the South East had the lowest economic inactivity rates for the White group, both at 18%, and the South East and the South West had the lowest rates for other ethnic groups, at 26%

Methodology

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.

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.

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 lower level than is possible in the Labour Force Survey.

Download the data

economic-inactivity-by-region.csv

This file contains economic inactivity rates by ethnicity, time, gender, region, age, numerator, denominator, sample size and confidence intervals

economic-inactivity-by-local-authority.csv

This file contains economic inactivity rates by ethnicity, time, gender, local authority area, age, with numerator, denominator, sample size and confidence intervals

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