Key points

  • 16% of working-age households are workless.  This is the same proportion as a decade ago.
  • 43% of lone parent households – and 31% of single adults without dependent children – are workless.  This compares with 6% of couples without dependent children and 6% of couples with children.  In other words, single adult households – both with and without children – are much more likely to be workless than couple households.
  • More than half of all workless, working-age households are single adults without dependent children.  A further fifth are lone parents.
  • The statistics above illustrate why lack of work can be even more serious for a single adult household than for a couple: if a single adult is workless, then (by definition) the whole of the household is workless and there is no earned income; by contrast, for a couple, the spouse may be working, perhaps with substantial earnings.
  • The UK has a higher proportion of its working-age population living in workless households than most other EU countries, all bar Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Belgium, Estonia and Bulgaria.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

The impact of an individual’s worklessness depends on the economic status of the other adults in the household.  Clearly, the situation is most serious if there is no adult in the household with any paid work.

Definitions and data sources

For each of a number of working-age household types, the first graph shows the proportion of the households who are workless (i.e. households where none of the adults are working).  The four household types shown are lone parent households, single adults without dependent children, households with two or more adults but no dependent children, and households with two or more adults and one or more dependent children.

The second graph shows the proportion of all workless, working-age households who are in each household type.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The data source for the first two graphs is the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and relates to the United Kingdom.  The data for each year is the average for the 2nd and 4th quarters, analysis by household type not being available for the 1st and 3rd quarters.

In both graphs, a working-age household is one in which at least one of the people is aged 16 to 59/64.  Households which are entirely composed of full-time students have been excluded from the analysis, as have households where their economic status is not known.

In both graphs, full-time students have been excluded from the calculations to decide whether the household has one or more than one adult.  So, for example, a household comprising one full-time student and one other working-age adult has been allocated to the ‘one adult’ household type.  In line with ONS methods, children comprise all those under the age of 16 (i.e. not including people aged 16 to 18 in full-time education).

The third graph shows the proportion of adults aged 18 to 59 in each EU country who live in workless households.  Note that that this data excludes students aged 18 -24 who live in households composed solely of students of the same age class.

The data source for the third graph is the Eurostat indicators website, which in turn draws its data from the Labour Force Surveys in each country.  Note that there is no data available for Sweden.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  The LFS is a well-established, quarterly government survey designed to be representative of the population as a whole.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Maximise employment opportunity for all.

Lead department

Department for Work and Pensions.

Official national targets

None.

Other indicators of progress

Overall employment rate taking account of the economic cycle.

Narrow the gap between the employment rates of the following disadvantaged groups and the overall rate: disabled people; lone parents; ethnic minorities; people aged 50 and over; those with no qualifications; and those living in the most deprived Local Authority wards.

Number of people on working age out-of-work benefits.

Amount of time people spend on out-of-work benefits.

Previous 2004 targets

As part of the wider objective of full employment in every region, over the three years to Spring 2008, and taking account of the economic cycle, demonstrate progress on increasing the employment rate.

As part of the wider objective of full employment in every region, over the three years to Spring 2008, and taking account of the economic cycle:

  • increase the employment rates of disadvantaged groups (lone parents, ethnic minorities, people aged 50 and over, those with the lowest qualifications, and those living in local authority wards with the poorest initial labour market position); and
  • significantly reduce the difference between the employment rates of the disadvantaged groups and the overall rate.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Single adult, no children Single adult with children 2+ adults, no children 2+ adults with children All household types
1996 33% 55% 8% 8% 18%
1997 31% 53% 8% 7% 18%
1998 31% 53% 7% 7% 17%
1999 30% 51% 7% 6% 17%
2000 30% 48% 7% 6% 16%
2001 29% 47% 7% 6% 16%
2002 29% 47% 7% 6% 16%
2003 28% 46% 7% 6% 16%
2004 28% 44% 7% 6% 16%
2005 28% 43% 7% 6% 16%
200628% 43% 7% 6% 16%
200728% 43% 6% 6% 16%
200828% 42% 6% 6% 16%
200929% 42% 6% 6% 17%
201031% 43% 6% 6% 16%

Graph 2

Household type Number (millions) Proportion
Single adult, no children 1,600K 56%
Single adult with children 600K 21%
2+ adults, no children 400K 13%
2+ adults with children 300K 10%
Total 3,000K 100%

Graph 3

Figures are as shown in the graph.