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Economic inactivity

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  • Release date: 21 November 2013
  • Period covered: 1993 to 2012
A report which shows estimates of economic inactivity rates for men and women of working age in Wales and the UK.

Key points

Trends in economic inactivity for people aged 16-64 since 1993 (from the Labour Force Survey)

  • In 2012, the overall economic inactivity rate for Wales was at its lowest since 1993, at 24.8 per cent. The gap between inactivity rates for Wales and the UK has fallen from 5.9 percentage points in 1993 to 2.3 percentage points in 2012.
  • Inactivity rates for women have gradually decreased since 1993, in both Wales and the UK. The gap between the two has closed from 5.6 percentage points in 1993 to 1.6 percentage points in 2012.
  • Economic inactivity in the 55-64 age group has decreased considerably since 1993, with the rate for men down 17.1 percentage points in 2012. The rate for women was down 17.8 percentage points, with some of this change attributed to the change in female state pension age from 2010. Inactivity rates for 16-24 year olds have steadily increased over the period, some of which is attributed to an increasing proportion of this age group being in full-time education.
  • Being long-term sick/disabled and looking after the family/home are the two main reasons people in Wales have given for why they are economically inactive. Generally, over the last two decades, the proportion of people giving these reasons has fallen, with the proportion reporting retirement and being in full-time education as the reason for inactivity increasing over the period.

Results for the year ending 31 December 2012 (from the Annual Population Survey)

  • Wales has the second highest economic inactivity rate of the four countries in the UK, following Northern Ireland. The rate in Wales is 3.3 percentage points higher than the UK average.
  • Excluding full-time students, Neath Port Talbot has the highest inactivity rate of the 22 Welsh local authorities (25.5 per cent), whilst Cardiff has the lowest (17.3 per cent).
  • The UK inactivity rate for those of a non-white ethnic background was 9.3 percentage points higher than that for those of a white ethnic background. The respective figure for Wales was 12.1 per cent. Excluding students, these differences fall to 4.1 percentage points for UK and 2.0 percentage points for Wales.
  • In general, the higher the level of qualification gained, the lower the economic inactivity rate is for that group. Excluding students, those in Wales with no qualifications had an inactivity rate of 52.1 per cent; 39.9 percentage points higher than those with qualifications at NQF level 4 and above.
  • When excluding full-time students, the economic inactivity rates for those with a disability are nearly 4 times higher than for those with no disability in both Wales and the UK.
  • In Wales, the main reasons for inactivity for both men and women aged 55-64 are retirement and being long-term sick/disabled. For the 45-54 age group, the main reason is long term sick, which is also true for men in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. Women in these age groups give looking after the family/home as the main reason for inactivity. The majority of the 16-24 age group is inactive due to full-time education.
  • There were 502,100 people aged 16-64 who were economically inactive in Wales in 2012. If Wales had the same inactivity rates as the UK, this figure would be 455,400 (46,600 less). This ‘excess’ is mainly due to higher numbers of long-term sick/disabled people aged 35 and over. In 2001 the ‘excess’ in Wales was 91,800. The reductions in inactivity between 2001 and 2012 are mainly due to fewer men inactive due to long term sick and fewer women looking after the family/home compared to the UK.


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