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Responding to ONS figures on economic inactivity due to long-term sickness, Sharlene McGee, Policy Manager at the Health Foundation, said:

‘Today’s ONS figures show that half a million more people are economically inactive due to ill health since spring 2019. This confirms a concerning picture of the health of the nation – and which may risk worsening if not urgently addressed.

‘As our research found, this rise reflects a longer-term, pre-pandemic trend of deteriorating health. While long covid and waiting lists for health care are not the main contributors, they are likely to be exacerbating this trend. Our recent analysis found that nearly one in four economically inactive because of ill-health want or are seeking to return to work but are unable to. This is an incredibly distressing position for people who want paid work to boost their incomes while the cost-of-living rises, especially as we know workers inactive due to poor health are more likely to come from the lowest-paid occupations. 

‘Consistent long-term ill-health is also bad news for the labour market, especially in areas with severe skills shortages. Therefore, businesses should focus on keeping people with ill-health in employment, maintaining contact with workers on sick leave and making adjustments to ensure their working environment is accessible.

‘With the autumn statement one week from now, this data could not be more relevant. The government must recognise the drivers and scale of the recent rise in economic inactivity. This cannot be achieved by solely focusing on the unemployed; people out of the labour market should be a priority. Without urgent action to support people with ill health back into work, long-term sickness is at risk of having an enduring impact on the national economy.'

Media contact

Billie Morgan
020 7257 8001 / 0790 8637 666

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