Written by Joseph Rowntree Foundation www.jrf.org.uk
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, are planning to make the UK’s ‘economic inactivity’ challenge a central feature of the Budget on 15 March (Strauss et al, 2023). There are almost nine million people of working age in the UK who are not working, not currently looking for work and not available to start work. Finding the right mix of policies, practices and institutional arrangements to encourage and support more of this group to enter employment – and to see work as desirable and possible – is a worthwhile policy aim.
But it is vital that policy-makers have an accurate understanding of both the problem at hand and the plausible routes to longer-term improvement in labour market participation. This briefing aims to assist in this task. At the outset, it is important to highlight that we minimise the use of the term ‘economic inactivity’ where possible in this briefing, given it suggests that many of those who are not active in the labour market specifically are not otherwise engaged in a range of other equally worthwhile activities that sustain family, community or economic life. This is clearly not true.