Fewer workless households

welfare-vs-workfare.s600x600Lib Dem HQ tells us that the number of workless households is falling.

Over the last four years, under the Coalition, the number of households in which no-one works has dropped by 450,000, with a substantial drop of 137,000 in the last year alone.

This outcome appears to validate the campaign to make work pay, so that people will always be better off in work than on benefits.

I have a friend who was caught in the benefits trap until recently. She is a single mum and has a child with disabilities; she wanted to work but knew that she would have to earn quite a substantial sum in order to bring in more than benefits. Having been out of employment for so long she did not think she could step straight into a job that would pay enough to balance the loss of benefit. Part-time work was out because she would end up with even less to live on. She is now happily back in employment.

But there was one key thing that enabled her to take that step –  there were suitable job vacancies in the area where she lives. So it would be interesting to know the geographical distribution of those previously workless households.  Can anyone tell us?



* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Michelle Taylor 25th Mar '14 - 4:29pm

    Really – fewer workless households? Or few er households capable of navigating the kafkaesque benefits bureaucracy, some having given up in exhaustion instead? How much of this work is real full-time work that pays enough for childcare, like your fine anecdote there, and how much is zero-hours or part-time underemployment?

  • Mick Taylor 25th Mar '14 - 5:10pm

    @michelle Taylor should look at a few facts before peddling myths. The vast majority of new jobs are full time. There is a problem with zero hours contracts but Vince Cable is addressing them. Have a look on UTube at Vince’s budget speech for more facts on this.

  • Adam Corlett 25th Mar '14 - 5:48pm

    Regional stats are available at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/working-and-workless-households/4th-quarter-2004-to-2013/table-c.xls

    There are regional differences. e.g. in the North West the % of workless households has actually increased slightly since 2010. But the figures for the NE, Yorkshire, Wales and Scotland are actually surprisingly good.

    I’m not sure this is down to ‘making work pay’, however. It wasn’t because people didn’t want to work that unemployment jumped in the recession.

    These figures – which cover those under 65 – are also affected by increases in the female pension age, with fewer women aged 60-64 now ‘workless’.

  • It’s worth looking at the ONS press release rather than the Lib Dem website for a proper explanation of what these figures mean:

    They relate only to households containing at least one person between 16 and 64. As the ONS points out, “This fall in the number of workless households was partly due to some workless households moving from containing at least one person aged 16-64 to containing all people aged 65 and over and therefore not being included in the analysis.” No mention of any of that on the Lib Dem website, or in the article above, for that matter.

  • A level of spin from Lib Dem HQ? Surely not!

  • A Social Liberal 26th Mar '14 - 7:08am

    Can I ask, how many of those households are taken off the books by way of one of the couple getting only part time work? After all, we know that many in work are suffering from inadequate working hours.

  • Even allowing for some of the statistical factors referred to this is still a hugely positive change for thousands of individuals and for the country and something we should be making a great deal more of.

  • Mary
    You ask about regional distribution of unemployment. The Telegraph (so it must be true) published a handy breakdown and chart a few weeks ago. —

    No surprise that the North East has an unemployment rate twice that of the South East.
    10% if the North East, 5% in the South East.

    Of course within regions there will be variations as big as that between regions. (English Regions have populations bigger than many member states of the UN) So my guess is that somewhere in the ONS data you will find parts of the North East where unemployment is 20% and other parts where it is negligible.

    Here in leafy Kingston upon Thames in the South East my guess is that there is currently a labour shortage – you only need to take a quick walk round the town centre to see shops and restaurants with signs in the window announcing vacancies.

    My friends in the rural bits of East Anglia tell me that jobs in agricultural and horticulture are always available and that the local economy would stall without the enterprise and initiative of large numbers of young people from Eastern Europe who are prepared to put up with worse than average accommodation whilst doing the jobs.

    In the part of the North West where my daughter is at university I am aware that branches of Greggs are staffed long term by university graduates. Are we really educating people until they are 23 with a degree in history so that they can sell bread rolls and soup? Similarly the local Council there employs some of the best qualified graduates in low grade clerical jobs of a temporary part-time nature on not much more than the minimum wage. According to the ONS statistics these young people are in employment — but the reality tells us a different story about the state of the regional economy.

  • Looking at the detailed figures on the ONS website, this fall is a continuation of a long-term trend in the percentage of households containing people of working age in which no one is in work:

    From 20.9% in 1996 (when comparable records begin) to the previous low of 17.3% in 2006, the percentage fell by 0.36% a year on average. Then during the economic downturn it went back up to reach 19.2% in 2010. Now it’s gone back down to 17.1%. If the previous trend hadn’t been interrupted by the downturn it would have been about 16% by now.

    And probably about a quarter of the fall in that last year is due to demographic changes reducing the number of households containing people of working age.

  • This shows that a four year association with Tories results in Tory attitudes. There are still 2.3 million unemployed people for goodness sake and a high proportion of those in work need benefit i.e they don’t have a living wage. What has happened to us?

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