Responding to today’s ONS labour market statistics release, Christopher Rocks, Lead Economist for the Health Foundation’s Commission for Healthier Working Lives, said:
‘Today's revised figures indicate that 2.8 million people aged 16-64 are not in the workforce due to ill health – this is even higher than previously thought and appears to still be on an upward trajectory.’
‘With 688,000 more people out of the workforce since before the pandemic, 6.6% of 16-64-year-olds are now economically inactive for health reasons, a record high since 1993.’
‘The economic consequences are significant, with worsening working-age health since early 2020 already adding £16 billion to annual borrowing through higher welfare spending and foregone tax receipts. The government must go further and faster to support people back into the workforce.
‘The growing ill health for people in and out of work underlines the need for the Health Foundation’s newly launched Commission for Healthier Working Lives to find new and better ways to address our working-age health challenges.’
Notes to editors
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released updated labour market statistics, reinstating its series on economic inactivity due to long-term sickness following adjustments for the latest UK population estimates to enhance data quality. These reweighted statistics are now labelled as 'official statistics in development’ pending further review.
The ONS estimates that 2.8 million people aged 16-64 years were economically inactive because of long-term sickness in October to December 2023.
Recent Health Foundation analysis (based on pre-reweighted data) reveals a longer-term increase in working-age people reporting health issues that limit the work they can do. This includes a sharp rise in mental health issues among younger adults over the last decade, which the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have exacerbated. Population ageing and pressures across health services will also play a role in driving up these figures.
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