Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain


1:26 pm - June 21st 2011

by Richard Exell    


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Yesterday new statistics showed that the proportion of working age households who were workless was lower in 2010 than in 1997 – despite an increase after the global recession hit this country.

There was even more good news: the proportion of children living in workless households was also lower in 2010 than in 1997 and the number of children fell by more than a third of a million. I held off blogging about this until today because I wanted to double-check whether DWP Ministers would say anything about these figures.

Of course they didn’t – it was good news and they seem only to be interested in bad-mouthing the achievements of the Department they run.

You may remember that, at the start of the month the Office for National Statistics published a press release, noting that “the number of households where no one has ever worked almost doubled between 1997 and 2010.” The Secretary of State didn’t keep quiet about this, and argued that:

These figures show the appalling inheritance we received from the last Labour Government.

Several news reports quoted the figures as showing that:

Workless households almost doubled under Labour

(Actually, confusing households where no-one of working age has ever worked with the total number of workless households can be a serious mistake: there are 352,000 of the former, 3,913,000 of the latter.)

The contrast with the total silence about yesterday’s figures is very illuminating.

Between 1997 and 2010, the proportion of working age households that was workless was lower in 2010 than in 1997:

Proportion of working age households that are workless

This is despite an unsurprising increase after the recession. (In each year, the figures are for the April – June quarter.)

The decline in the proportion of children living in workless households was even more noticeable:

And the decline in the proportion of children in lone parent families who live in workless families was sharper still: from 50.6% to 39.7%.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Most of the press coverage of IDS’s assault on Labour simply followed the Press Release I mentioned (and the helpful briefings they doubtless received from the DWP press office) but that Press Release was based on the publication of the latest edition of Social Trends.

If you look at these “never worked” households the problem starts to look a lot less terrifying. One point is that more than eighty thousand are student households.

Of the rest, more than a hundred thousand are lone parents and it shouldn’t surprise us a great deal when a lone parent has never been been able to do a paid job for as long as she or he has had a household to be head of.

Many of the students and lone parents will get jobs one day (if the labour market recovers) and just 22,000 (8.2%) are couple households who might possibly fit the “feckless family” stereotype that populates the nightmares of right-wing columnists.

Between 1997 and 2010 the working age population grew strongly – by 8.9%. Against that background, reducing the proportion that was workless was a significant achievement and one that the Department for Work and Pensions can take some pride in.

It is a pity that their Ministers don’t seem able to share it.

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About the author
Richard is an regular contributor. He is the TUC’s Senior Policy Officer covering social security, tax credits and labour market issues.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Economy ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Well, theres lies, damned lies and Department for Work & Pensions press releases!

@1: oh, do fuck off. The ONS is internationally renowned for its integrity and the quality of its data – if you’ve got a substantive criticism, rather than recounting an ignorant old cliche, then please make it. In general terms, not just on this issue, data is a useful tool to support decision-making, and if you pretend “oooh, you can’t trust statistics”, then you don’t deserve a role in the process.

There are exceptions that are accepted by people who know what they’re talking about to be unreliable (e.g. reported crime, mainly because the main purpose of crime reporting is not to provide accurate statistics, but rather to trigger police investigations). And there are caveats, where you need to understand what the data’s actually saying, but where all the numbers are available and accurate if you do understand the definitions (such as unemployment / employment / labour force data).

@2

Slightly over the top.

Badly punctuated comments that bring out rotting zombie cliches to attract perfectly good data deserve ire, but I was over the top in my reaction. Apologies for tone, though not content.

5. Planeshift

John Ruddy also makes an inaccurate statement that the data comes from a DWP press release, when it doesn’t – its based on use of ONS data tables. ONS (or NOMIS which is even cooler and enables you to find all sorts of things) is not the DWP and is less prone to political pressure.

Lets hope John Ruddy is better at keeping clean sheets for Norwich than in political statements.

6. Margin4error

John

Don’t appologise for the rant. It was entirely appropriate if Ruddy was suggesting that statistics are all lies – and thus using a tired old cliche espoused by people who don’t understand statisatics to avoid having his opinions, perceptions or wishes challenged.

7. Planeshift

Also lets return to the statistics. They represent a considerable achievement for labour – and if the labour party themselves are too incompetent to be shouting this from the rooftops, then we’ll have to do it for them (and invoice them for doing so….)

8. blackwillow1

So New Labour did something good, we know that already. They did quite a few good things over thirteen years, unfortunately they also did a lot of bad shit! If Ed M and his new and improved formula Labour Party are ever going to show the public, that they are not the same party that abandoned them, he needs to embed his passionate, angry side in the minds of the electorate, the party in general needs to throw off the chains of politeness and protocol, get radical, speak up and speak out! As for the bad stuff that happened, how many more apologies do we need to hear? New Labour fucked up, Blair fucked up, Brown fucked up. More of the good stuff being highlighted is a bonus, but it needs to be broadcast far and wide, to let people know that the coalition wo’nt tell them the truth, unless it makes them look good. If it makes the previous government look good, they will try to bury it as deep as possible, for fear more of their election campaign lies will be exposed.

9. Planeshift

“just 22,000 (8.2%) are couple households who might possibly fit the “feckless family” stereotype that populates the nightmares of right-wing columnists.”

I think we need more information on this. How many of these 22,000 couple households have children?, how many are people approaching state pension age?, How many include disabilities where one is caring full time for another? How many are not workless because one of them is working for cash in hand? etc etc

10. Julian St Jude

Statistics, such as these are examples of Factual Correectness, which truthshy Tories dislike even more than they dislike “Political Correctness”.

The Tory rhetoric against people on benefits is a smoke screen to cover up the fact that whenever the Conservatives get in, unemployment always goes up. They tell us that “unemployment is a price worth paying”. It would be forgivable if they did not then label those who pay that price, ie those made unemployed, as “Benefit Scroungers” or “Workshy”.

Truthshy Tories speak with great passion about the 2 billion or so lost to benefit fraud but they maintain a monastic silence with regards to tax fraud, tax avoidance and all the other forms of corporate jiggery pokery, which is costing the country upwards of 50 billion. Perhaps they have powerful friends and donors who live in glass houses.

I’m afraid you have mis-interpretated my comment. I was of course referring to the many DWP press releases which talk about worklessness, etc and disparage benefit claimants. The idea being that they twist statistics to their own agenda.

I thought a humourous comment in which DWP press releases are in the same category as lies and damned lies would be understood. Sorry.

This is of course good news, and one that Labour should take note of. However, I fear it wont as the attitude seems to be that we are to try to out”Daily Mail” the tories when it comes to scapegoating benefit claimants.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Ceehaitch

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  3. AnonLegionGR

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  4. Helen Barnard

    Politics aside, big decline in workless households over years but consistent failure to tackle in-work poverty http://t.co/O2dYKWD

  5. James Iain McKay

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  6. sunny hundal

    Proportion of workless households lower in 2010 than in 1997 despite recession. So why are ministers quiet about that? http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  7. David Burling

    Proportion of workless households lower in 2010 than in 1997 despite recession. So why are ministers quiet about that? http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  8. Angela Jupp

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  9. accidental exporter

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  10. Paul Hufton

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  11. Anna-Lujz Gilbert

    Proportion of workless households lower in 2010 than in 1997 despite recession. So why are ministers quiet about that? http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  12. Jonathan Paige

    Proportion of workless households lower in 2010 than in 1997 despite recession. So why are ministers quiet about that? http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  13. Janvier

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  14. robbie craig

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/1EEuWVN via @libcon

  15. Claire

    Proportion of workless households lower in 2010 than in 1997 despite recession. So why are ministers quiet about that? http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  16. Robin

    Proportion of workless households lower in 2010 than in 1997 despite recession. So why are ministers quiet about that? http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  17. Matt Cliff

    Workless households: another success ministers don't want to explain http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  18. Sue Marsh

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rS3JBIs < This is startling!!

  19. Clive Burgess

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  20. George Eaton

    The number of workless households was lower in 2010 than in 1997 (via @libcon) http://t.co/XuU0Axa

  21. Helen Thomas

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/g53vMC6 via @libcon

  22. Stardust we are

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy: http://t.co/A47Jk76

  23. Lexin

    RT @libcon: Workless households: another success ministers don't want to explain http://t.co/f7u1GeE

  24. Mel from Leeds

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rS3JBIs < This is startling!!

  25. Deborah Segalini

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rS3JBIs < This is startling!!

  26. antony rayner

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rS3JBIs < This is startling!!

  27. Frances Coppola

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wTgT2Ne via @libcon

  28. Kit

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  29. DarkestAngel

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wTgT2Ne via @libcon

  30. Ross Haffenden

    Workless households: another success ministers don’t want to explain | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wTgT2Ne via @libcon

  31. Jane Ayres

    RT @libcon Workless households: [Labour] success [Tory] ministers don't want to explain http://bit.ly/kn82k2

  32. David Cameron attacks stay-away fathers, a stronger line for the Coalition on law and order, and Ed Miliband says no to shadow cabinet elections: round up of political blogs for 18 – 24 June | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    […] Excell, guest blogging at Liberal Conspiracy discusses the decline in workless households since the […]

  33. PhilMjrf

    @guardian_clark You mightwant to see this from Richard Exell earlier http://t.co/xRO53bS >makes useful points





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