United Kingdom

Concentrations of worklessness

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • All the statistics below relate to working-age people in receipt of out-of-work benefits (termed ‘claimants’).
  • In the period between February 2000 and February 2008, claimant numbers in the areas with the most claimants were falling, but at a slightly slower rate than those in the areas with the least claimants.  So, for example, the number of claimants in the 10% of small areas with the highest levels of recipiency fell from 1.3 million in February 2000 to 1.15 million in February 2008 whilst the number in the 50% of small areas with the lowest levels of recipiency fell from 1.4 million in February 2000 to 1.15 million in February 2008.
  • Between February 2008 and February 2011, however, the number of claimants rose in all types of area.  In absolute terms, the rises were greater the higher the existing number of claimants.  So, for example, the number of claimants in the tenth of small areas with the highest levels of recipiency rose by around 100,000 whilst the number in the tenth of small areas with the lowest levels of recipiency rose by around 20,000.  In proportional terms, however, the rises were lower the higher the existing number of claimants.   So, for example, the 100,000 rise in the number of claimants in the tenth of small areas with the highest levels of recipiency represented a rise of 8% whilst the 20,000 rise in the number in the tenth of small areas with the lowest levels of recipiency represented a rise of 18%.  In this sense, because the recession has had an impact in all types of area, it has actually lessened the geographic concentration of working-age people in receipt of out-of-work benefits.
  • The net result is that, in terms of both numbers of claimants and its geographic concentration, the situation in February 2011 was similar to that of a decade ago.  In this sense at least, the policies of the last decade have not succeeded in reducing the gap between the most deprived areas of the country and the rest.
  • In February 2011, around 30% of all working-age people were receiving out-of-work benefits in the areas with the highest concentrations.  This compares with around 10% in areas with average concentrations.
  • 40% of claimants live in a fifth of small areas, whilst the other 60% live outside of these areas.  In other words, a majority of claimants live outside of the high concentration areas.
  • In February 2011, there were eighteen local authority areas where a majority of the small areas were in the fifth of small areas in Great Britain with the highest concentrations of claimants.  These were:
    • Five local authorities in the Welsh Valleys, namely Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff.
    • Five local authorities in Scotland, namely Dundee City, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire.
    • Three urban local authorities in the North East of England, namely Easington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
    • Two urban local authorities in the North West of England, namely Knowsley and Liverpool.
    • Two urban local authorities in the West Midlands, namely Sandwell and Wolverhampton.
    • One local authority in London, namely Hackney.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

The extent to which poverty is concentrated in particular geographic areas is an important consideration in the development of anti-poverty policies and the importance or otherwise of area-based initiatives.

Definitions and data sources

This indicator examines how the pattern of recipiency of key out-of-work benefits by working-age people varies at a small area level and how these patterns have changed over time.  It does so by placing the 40,000 small areas (‘super output areas’) in Great Britain into a number of equal groups according to the proportion of their working-age population who are in receipt of such benefits.  The benefits included are Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, and Carer’s Allowance and, if someone is receiving more than one of these benefits, they are only counted once.

The first graph shows how the levels of concentration have changed over time, comparing the number of recipients in the tenth of small areas with the highest levels of recipiency with the half of small areas with the lowest levels of recipiency (where high/low levels of recipiency are defined in terms of the proportion of the working-age population who are recipients).

Note that the allocation of the small areas into tenths is not done by simply allocating equal numbers of small areas into each tenth as this would result in an underestimate of levels of concentration.  This is because small areas in deprived areas tend to have lower populations than other small areas, in large part because the small areas in Scotland (e.g. Glasgow) generally have much lower populations than those in England or Wales.  Rather, the allocation of the small areas into tenths is done by ensuring that there are equal populations in each tenth.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, the extent to which rates of recipiency vary between small areas and the third graph shows the share of the total recipients who are in each group of small areas.  Note that the denominator in the second graph is the total population aged 16 to 64 (rather than the working-age population) as this is the only age group for which up-to-date population estimates exist.

The data source for all the graphs is the DWP Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study and relates to Great Britain.  The data for each year relates to the month of February, with the year 2000 being the earliest for which such data is available.  Small area population estimates from ONS have been used as the denominator.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The underlying data is a full count and is considered to be very reliable.  But the data is a count of people in receipt of key out-of-work benefits rather than a count of people in low income.  So, for example, it excludes all people in low pay and includes all recipients of out-of-work benefits even if they have some private income.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

The numbers

Graph 1

DateMillions
The 10% of super output areas with the most claimantsThe 50% of super output areas with the least claimants
February 20001.32M 1.40M
February 20011.29M 1.36M
February 20021.28M 1.33M
February 20031.26M 1.25M
February 20041.24M 1.23M
February 20051.21M 1.21M
February 20061.22M 1.21M
February 20071.21M 1.19M
February 20081.16M 1.14M
February 20091.26M 1.36M
February 20101.29M 1.38M
February 20111.26M 1.32M

Graph 2 and 3

Groups of super output areas Proportion in receipt of benefitsShare of recipients
In the fifth of super output areas with the highest concentrations 28% 41%
Next fifth 17% 25%
Middle fifth 11% 16%
Fourth fifth 7% 11%
In the fifth of super output areas with the lowest concentrations 4% 7%