Economic inactivity

Published

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1. Main facts and figures

  • 22% of working age people (people aged 16 to 64) in England, Wales and Scotland were economically inactive in 2018, which means they were out of work and not looking for a job
  • 20% of White people were economically inactive in 2018, compared with 30% of people from all other ethnic groups combined
  • the highest economic inactivity rate was in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group, at 38%
  • the lowest economic inactivity rate was in the Other White ethnic group, at 15%
  • in every region, White people had a lower economic inactivity rate than the combined rate for all other ethnic groups
  • in every ethnic group, women were more likely than men to be economically inactive
  • the biggest gap between men and women was in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group, where 56% of women and 21% of men were economically inactive (a gap of 35 percentage points)
Things you need to know

In 2018, the total working age population (people aged 16 to 64 years) in England, Wales and Scotland was just over 40 million. Of those, just over 34 million people were White, and nearly 6 million people were from all other ethnic groups combined.

The data for this analysis comes from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The APS surveys a random sample of the population to make generalisations about the whole population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable findings. Findings are reliable ('statistically significant’) when we can be confident they are reflective of the total population. This means we would get similar findings 19 times out of 20 if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population.

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 low number of responses are more likely to change from year to year. What appear to be changes over time might not reflect real differences. Please use caution when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for small groups.

Values based on fewer than 30 responses have been withheld from results for 'All' groups. Values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld from results for specific ethnic groups. This is both:

  • to protect respondents’ confidentiality
  • because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions

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 (LFS).

The APS updated its ethnicity questions in 2011 so they were consistent with the censuses in England, Wales and Scotland. As a result, estimates from before and after 2011 may be inconsistent, and data for individual ethnic groups in 2011 is not available.

Download the data for both the data shown and additional estimates for:

  • the 2 broad ethnic groups (White and Other than White) at the lower local authority level
  • the Other than White ethnic group broken down by age, gender and over time
  • data by ethnicity and age over time for all age groups
What the data measures

This data measures the rate of economic inactivity for different ethnic groups in England, Wales and Scotland. Data is also broken down by gender, age group, area and disability.

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 and Bangladeshi
  • Asian Other (including Chinese)

Black

Mixed

White:

  • White British
  • White Other

Other

Data broken down by local authority is shown in the download files. For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories, so the data is broken down into the following 2 categories:

  • White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
  • Other than White – all other ethnic minorities

People whose ethnicity is not known are included in the figures for ‘All’.

2. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity
Ethnicity % Number of people economically inactive
All 22 8,624,100
Asian 30 960,700
Indian 21 233,100
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 38 469,900
Asian Other 32 257,700
Black 27 374,800
Mixed 28 152,200
White 20 6,849,300
White British 21 6,383,500
White Other 15 465,700
Other 34 275,600

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

Summary

This data shows that:

  • 22% of working age people (aged 16 to 64) in England, Scotland and Wales were economically inactive in 2018
  • 38% of people from the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group were economically inactive, the highest percentage out of all ethnic groups
  • 15% of people from the Other White ethnic group were economically inactive, the lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups

3. By ethnicity (White and Other than White)

Percentage and number of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity (White and Other than White)
Ethnicity % Number of people economically inactive
All 22 8,624,100
White 20 6,849,300
Other than White 30 1,763,200

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity (White and Other than White)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity (White and Other than White)’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2018, the rate of economic inactivity was lower for the White ethnic group (20%) compared with all other ethnic groups combined (30%)

4. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
% % % % % % % % % % % % % % %
All 24 24 23 23 23 23 24 24 23 23 23 22 22 22 22
Asian 37 37 36 36 35 34 34 not collected 33 33 32 32 32 31 30
Indian 27 26 25 26 26 25 24 not collected 23 24 24 24 23 22 21
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 49 49 48 48 46 44 44 not collected 42 41 40 40 39 39 38
Asian Other 36 36 34 33 31 32 36 not collected 34 36 33 32 34 32 32
Black 31 30 28 28 28 29 28 not collected 27 26 27 26 25 26 27
Mixed 29 30 27 28 31 30 28 not collected 29 26 28 28 28 27 28
White 23 22 22 22 22 22 23 not collected 22 22 21 21 21 20 20
White British 22 22 22 22 22 22 23 not collected 22 22 22 21 21 21 21
White Other 25 23 21 21 21 21 21 not collected 20 19 19 17 17 16 15
Other 38 36 36 36 35 36 35 not collected 35 35 37 35 34 33 34

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in most ethnic groups, the economic inactivity rate was lower in 2018 than in 2004
  • although it appears that the rate was lower in the Asian Other, Mixed, and Other ethnic groups, the decrease was too small to be reliable
  • the biggest decreases were in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group, where the economic inactivity rate went down from 49% to 38% (down by 11 percentage points) and the Other White ethnic group, where the rate went down from 25% to 15% (down by 10 percentage points)
  • the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group had the highest rate of economic inactivity throughout the period covered

5. By ethnicity and gender

Percentage and number of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity and gender
All Men Women
Ethnicity All % All Number of people economically inactive Men % Men Number of people economically inactive Women % Women Number of people economically inactive
All 22 8,624,100 17 3,324,600 26 5,299,600
Asian 30 960,700 19 302,300 41 658,400
Indian 21 233,100 14 78,600 28 154,500
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 38 469,900 21 133,800 56 336,000
Asian Other 32 257,700 25 89,900 38 167,800
Black 27 374,800 21 139,500 31 235,300
Mixed 28 152,200 23 60,000 32 92,300
White 20 6,849,300 16 2,722,000 24 4,127,300
White British 21 6,383,500 17 2,593,600 24 3,789,900
White Other 15 465,700 9 128,400 21 337,300
Other 34 275,600 24 97,200 44 178,400

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

Summary

This data shows that:

  • 26% of women and 17% of men were economically inactive in 2018
  • in every ethnic group, women were more likely to be economically inactive than men
  • the gap between men and women was biggest in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group, where 56% of women and 21% of men were economically inactive (a 35 percentage point difference)
  • the highest economic inactivity rate among women was in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group, at 56%
  • the highest economic inactivity rate among men was in the Other Asian ethnic group, at 25%
  • for both men and women, the lowest economic inactivity rate was in the Other White ethnic group (9% for men, 21% for women)

6. By ethnicity and age

Percentage and number of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity and age
All 16-24 25-49 50-64
Ethnicity All % All Number of people economically inactive 16-24 % 16-24 Number of people economically inactive 25-49 % 25-49 Number of people economically inactive 50-64 % 50-64 Number of people economically inactive
All 22 8,624,100 39 2,647,500 13 2,780,200 26 3,196,400
Asian 30 960,700 56 352,600 22 440,100 32 168,000
Indian 21 233,100 52 81,600 13 95,500 25 56,100
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 38 469,900 53 164,900 30 237,500 44 67,400
Asian Other 32 257,700 65 106,100 22 107,100 29 44,600
Black 27 374,800 57 165,000 18 137,900 21 71,900
Mixed 28 152,200 46 85,300 16 46,900 28 20,000
White 20 6,849,300 35 1,945,900 12 2,015,400 26 2,888,000
White British 21 6,383,500 35 1,798,000 12 1,791,800 26 2,793,700
White Other 15 465,700 40 147,900 10 223,600 19 94,300
Other 34 275,600 64 95,100 26 134,400 32 46,000

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

Summary

This data shows that:

  • 39% of 16 to 24 year olds were economically inactive in total, compared with 13% of 25 to 49 year olds, and 26% of 50 to 64 year olds
  • in every ethnic group, 16 to 24 year olds had the highest economic inactivity rate out of the three age groups
  • among 16 to 24 year olds, the highest economic inactivity rate was in the Other Asian ethnic group (65%), and the lowest was in the White British group (35%)
  • among 25 to 49 year olds, the highest economic inactivity rate was in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group (30%), and the lowest was in the Other White group (10%)
  • among 50 to 64 year olds, the highest economic inactivity rate was in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group (44%), and the lowest was in the Other White group (19%)

7. By ethnicity over time (16 to 24 year olds only)

Percentage of 16 to 24 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
% % % % % % % % % % % % % % %
All 32 32 33 33 34 35 38 37 37 38 39 37 38 38 39
Asian 53 54 51 54 52 55 58 not collected 56 57 60 57 60 58 56
Indian 46 49 44 45 48 51 51 not collected 46 54 58 54 59 49 52
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 56 55 52 56 52 54 56 not collected 56 52 55 53 56 58 53
Asian Other 57 60 60 62 59 65 70 not collected 68 69 69 67 68 65 65
Black 47 50 48 49 53 52 55 not collected 53 53 54 56 50 56 57
Mixed 39 41 38 39 45 47 45 not collected 42 38 43 46 48 45 46
White 29 29 30 31 31 32 34 not collected 34 35 35 34 35 35 35
White British 29 29 30 31 31 32 34 not collected 34 34 35 34 35 34 35
White Other 36 30 27 31 30 35 37 not collected 44 42 41 36 36 40 40
Other 55 53 53 55 50 60 61 not collected 58 63 65 59 61 63 64

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time (16 to 24 year olds only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time (16 to 24 year olds only)’ (CSV)

Summary

16 to 24 year olds were more likely to be economically inactive than older people. This is partly because people in this age group were more likely to be students.

This data shows that:

  • between 2004 and 2018, the total economic inactivity rate among 16 to 24 year olds went up from 32% to 39%
  • the only ethnic groups where the increase was reliable were the White British and Other White ethnic groups

8. By ethnicity and area

Percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity and area
All White Other than White
Region All % All Number of people economically inactive White % White Number of people economically inactive Other than White % Other than White Number of people economically inactive
All 22 8,624,100 20 6,849,300 30 1,763,200
East Midlands 22 638,700 20 519,300 32 118,800
East of England 19 720,400 19 634,900 22 85,400
London 22 1,310,900 17 627,700 28 678,800
North East 25 406,200 24 373,600 39 32,600
North West 23 1,037,200 21 840,900 35 195,000
Scotland 23 777,600 22 710,800 38 66,500
South East 19 1,065,300 19 923,800 24 139,200
South West 19 621,200 18 570,600 27 50,500
Wales 23 446,200 23 415,300 32 30,500
West Midlands 23 826,600 21 599,400 32 226,600
Yorkshire and The Humber 23 773,800 21 633,000 36 139,400

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

Summary

This data shows that:

  • White people had a lower economic inactivity rate than people from the Other than White ethnic group (made up of all other ethnic groups combined) in every region except the East of England, where the difference between the two groups was too small to be reliable
  • the gap between the White and Other than White ethnic groups was biggest in Scotland, where 22% of White people and 38% of those from the Other ethnic group were economically inactive
  • out of all combinations of ethnicity and region, the lowest rate of economic inactivity was among White people in London, at 17%
  • the highest rate was among people from the Other ethnic group in the North East, at 39%

9. By ethnicity, disability and gender

Percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were economically inactive, by ethnicity, disability and gender
All Men Women
Ethnicity All All (%) All Disabled (%) All Non-disabled (%) Men All (%) Men Disabled (%) Men Non-disabled (%) Women All (%) Women Disabled (%) Women Non-disabled (%)
All 22 44 16 17 42 12 26 45 21
Asian 30 46 27 19 35 17 41 55 38
Indian 21 36 18 14 31 12 28 40 26
Pakistani, Bangladeshi 38 52 34 21 35 18 56 66 52
Asian Other 32 47 30 25 43 23 38 51 36
Black 27 48 23 21 49 17 31 47 28
Mixed 28 48 23 23 42 19 32 53 27
White 20 43 14 16 42 11 24 44 19
White British 21 44 15 17 43 11 24 45 18
White Other 15 34 13 9 31 7 21 36 19
Other 34 53 31 24 48 19 44 57 41

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity, disability and gender’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity, disability and gender’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • the total economic inactivity rate was 44% for disabled people and 16% for non-disabled people
  • in every ethnic group, disabled people had a higher economic inactivity rate than non-disabled people
  • among disabled people, the highest economic inactivity rate was in the Other ethnic group (at 53%) and the lowest was in the Other White ethnic group (at 34%)
  • among disabled women, the highest economic inactivity rate was in the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group (at 66%) and the lowest was in the Other White ethnic group (36%)
  • among disabled men, the highest economic inactivity rate was in the Black ethnic group (at 49%) and the lowest was in the Indian and Other White ethnic groups (both at 31%)

10. 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 from:

  • waves 1 and 5 of the Labour Force Survey (in which selected addresses are contacted every 3 months)
  • 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. 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.

People 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 sample of approximately 275,000 people undergoes weighting at local authority level, using age and sex dimensions.

Weighting adjusts the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and make them more reliable.

For example, a survey of 25 women and 75 men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which is around 50% male and 50% female.

The weighting for this data is based on Office for National Statistics population statistics.

Confidence intervals:

Download the data for confidence intervals for each ethnic group.

The data from the APS is based on a sample of the population in England, Wales and Scotland, rather than the whole population. The estimates obtained from this sample are reliable estimates but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage for the whole population.

For example, it is estimated that 20.1% of White people of working age were economically inactive in 2018. It’s 95% certain that somewhere between 19.8% (lower confidence interval) and 20.4% (upper confidence interval) of White 16 to 64 year olds were economically inactive in 2018. 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 24.5% and 28.7% for the Black ethnic group compared to 19.8% and 20.4% for the White ethnic group in 2018.

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

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

11. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency

Yearly

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
  • education
  • health

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 government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between Censuses.

12. Download the data

Economic inactivity by region - Spreadsheet (csv) 3 MB

This file contains the following: Measure, Measure_type, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_type, Time, Time_type, Region, Age, Age_type, Sex, Value, Confidence_interval, Numerator, Denominator, Sample_size

Economic inactivity by local authority - Spreadsheet (csv) 2 MB

This file contains the following: Measure, Measure_type, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_type, Time, Time_type, Local_authority, Age, Value, Confidence_interval, Numerator, Denominator, Sample_size

Economic inactivity by disability - Spreadsheet (csv) 790 KB

This file contains the following: Measure, Measure_type, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_type, Time, Time_Type, Region, Age, Age_Type, Sex, Disability, Value, Confidence_Interval, Numerator, Denominator, Sample_Size.