Charts by Subject

Chart of the Week


Week 50, 2017: Different Groups' Engagement in the Labour Force




The chart shows that although participation of ‘low activity’ groups has increased significantly since 2000, their participation remains low in comparison to ‘high-performers’. The biggest increases in participation can be seen for two categories: single-parents, who have been the target of some policy measures to incentivise entry or re-entry to the work force; and older people between 65-69, for whom the statutory retirement age has risen and are generally living longer and enjoying better health. The only group that has experienced a reduction in workforce participation is those aged 18-29, although this is only slight, at under 3%.

What does the chart show?     

The bars display the rate of individuals in each group presenting themselves for work. This is regardless of their current employment status and does not reflect the nature of the work for which they present (part-, full-time or agency). The ‘high-performer’ group is included for comparison and comprises white, highly qualified people without a disability or single parenting responsibilities. The work force participation of this group is always over 90% and shows greater resilience to variations in the economic climate than others. BAME refers people from black, asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The data is from a report by the Resolution Foundation based on the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey.

Why is the chart interesting? 

Since April 2016, welfare reforms mean that benefits have been frozen and with rising inflation, this makes a life out of work far less tenable for many groups. The chart shows rates generally improving for many groups who have previously experienced barriers to participation. The number of individuals reporting full-time employment has increased by only 1% since 2008, however the number of those employed on more precarious terms has increased. Specifically, those who report working part-time or via an agency has risen by 8% and 46% respectively since 2008, although it is difficult to know how many of these workers would prefer or could undertake full-time employment. The Chancellor recently attributed sluggish productivity to the increase in numbers of workers with disabilities, which sparked a great deal of controversy. UK productivity has stagnated since just before the crash and, as the chart demonstrates, there has been little growth in workforce participation of those with disabilities. People with disabilities constitute around 18% of working age adults and the disability employment gap (those who actually are employed rather than simply seeking employment) has been stable at over thirty percent for over a decade. The EU average disability employment gap is 20%. Although over 3.4 million disabled people are in employment, the charity Scope suggests that if the UK could match the European disability employment gap, it would contribute an extra £12bn to the Exchequer by 2030.