Wanting paid work
Graphs on this page:
- ‘Unemployment’ is only part of the overall picture of people who lack, but want, paid work: even during the current recession, around half of all those who lack, but want, paid work were considered to be ‘economically inactive’ rather than ‘unemployed’, either because they are able to started work immediately or because they are not actively seeking work. Lone parents and those who are sick or disabled usually count as ‘economically inactive’ rather than ‘unemployed’. In other words, the people who lack but want paid work divide into two broad groups of roughly equal size, namely those who are officially (ILO) unemployed and those who are considered to be economically inactive but nevertheless want paid work. 1
- In 2010, there were 250,000 people of working-age who wanted to be in paid work but were not. This is a substantial increase compared with 2008 (200,000), with most of this increase being among those who are unemployed rather than among those who were economically inactive but wanted paid work. It represents 14% of the total working-age population.
- As a result of the sharp rises in 2009 and 2010, the number of people of working-age who want to be in paid work but are not is now back to the levels of the the previous peak in the early 1990s. However, the numbers have actually been rising since 2005, after falling throughout the previous decade.
- Of the 250,000 people, around half were officially unemployed and the other half were economically inactive. This is a rather different balance than before the recession, when less than half (two-fifths) were officially unemployed.
- Around a third of those who are officially unemployed have been unemployed for more than a year (i.e. they are long-term unemployed).
- The proportion of the working-age population who lack, but want, paid work is somewhat higher in Wales than in most other parts of the United Kingdom.
- The proportion of the working-age population who are unemployed ranges from 6½% in Merthyr Tydfil to 2½% in Flintshire (averaged across 2006 to 2008).
- The proportion who are economically inactive but want paid work ranges from 8½% in Blaenau Gwent to 4% in Conwy.
- Taken together, the proportion wanting work, whether ‘unemployed’ or ‘economically inactive’, is highest in Blaenau Gwent, where 16% of the working-age population lack, but want, paid work.
- For women of all ages, and for older men, those who are economically inactive but wanting paid work substantially outnumber the officially unemployed. Men aged under 35 are the only group where the officially unemployed substantially outnumber those who are economically inactive but wanting paid work.
- For an analysis of unemployment trends by age group, see the indicator on young adult unemployment.
- Unemployment rates decrease with age, for both men and women. The rates of those who are economically inactive increase with age for men, but not for women.
Definitions and data sources
The first graph shows the number of people aged 16 to retirement who lack, but want, paid work. It is divided between the long-term unemployed, the short-term unemployed and those counted as ‘economically inactive’ who nevertheless want paid work.
‘Unemployment’ is the ILO definition, which is used for the official government unemployment numbers. It comprises all those with no paid work in the survey week who were available to start work in the next fortnight and who either looked for work in the last month or were waiting to start a job already obtained.
The ‘economically inactive who want paid work’ includes people not available to start work for some time and those not actively seeking work. The data is based on a question asking the economically inactive whether they would like paid work or not.
The second graph shows how the proportions either unemployed or economically inactive but wanting paid work vary by age and sex.
The third graph shows the shares of those who lack, but want, paid work by group.
The fourth graph and map shows how the proportion of the population aged 16 to retirement who lack, but want, paid work varies by local authority.
The fifth graph shows how the proportion of the population of the population aged 16 to retirement who lack, but want, paid work in Wales compares with the rest of the United Kingdom, with the proportions who are unemployed and economically inactive but wanting paid work shown separately.
The data source for all the graphs bar the fourth is the Labour Force Survey (LFS). To its improve statistical reliability, the figures for each year are the average for the four quarters of the relevant year. For the fourth graph and map, the data comes from the Annual Population Survey, which is effectively LFS with selected booster samples to compensate for small sample sizes in some authorities.
Overall adequacy of the indicator: high. The LFS is large, a well-established, quarterly government survey designed to be representative of the population as a whole.
1. Neither of these groups is the same as the ‘claimant count’ numbers that are often published in the media, which effectively are the numbers of people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance. Although there is a strong overlap between ‘officially unemployed’ and ‘claimant count’, a 2008 paper from ONS listed a number of material differences, including: a) people whose partner is working; b) young people under 18 who are looking for work but do not take up the offer of a Youth Training place; c) students looking for part-time work or vacational work; and d) people who have left their job voluntarily. The reason that the media often use the claimant count numbers is simply that they are available on a more timely basis, particularly at a sub-regional level. ↩