Left out, left behind: the people lost to Britain's workforce

Document type
David Willetts; Nicholas Hillman; Adam Bogdanor
Policy Exchange
Date of publication
21 July 2003
Employment, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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This paper looks behind the headline unemployment figures to reveal the extent of the problem of those who are economically inactive.  Falling unemployment figures do not necessarily mean that the Government’s employment policies have been effective. There are 7.7 million people of working age in Britain who are neither working nor registered as unemployed – a group described as economically inactive. This equates to 5.2 economically inactive people of working age for every one unemployed person, and the figure is rising: in 1984 the ratio was 2.3 to 1, and in 1997 it was 3.8 to 1.  The authors examine the impact of Government policy on four groups of economically inactive people: young people; people aged between 50 and State Pension Age; lone parents; and people with disabilities. While many people are economically inactive for good reasons, these are groups where the loss of contact with the labour market is often involuntary.  The authors analyse the reasons why the New Deal policies have not delivered what was promised and suggest ways in which policy might be improved.

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