People who have never worked

One of the recurring myths in the British social security system concerns generations of families who have never worked. The issue has been the subject of recent correspondence on the JISCmail list on Social Policy.

There are relatively few households in Britain where there are adults of working age that consist entirely of people who have never worked. The DWP has issued statistics for households and for individuals; this applies respectively to 1.7% of households of working age (about 350,000 households) and 1.4% of individuals. More than a third in both categories are adults under the age of 25.

The primary determinant of worklessness is the economy, and variations in the economy over time mean that the experience of previous generations is hardly ever the same as that of the current generation. Forthcoming work for the Rowntree foundation by Rob Macdonald, Andy Furlong and Johann Roden compares the search for “three generations who have never worked” to the hunt for the Yeti.

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