More people are out of work than in 1997, says think-tank

Click to follow
The Independent Online

More people are out of work than when Labour came to power in 1997 despite a fall of about 500,000 in official figures, a think-tank report claims.

More people are out of work than when Labour came to power in 1997 despite a fall of about 500,000 in official figures, a think-tank report claims.

The right-of-centre Policy Exchange says that 7,722,000 people of working age are "economically inactive" compared with 7,588,000 six years ago.

The number of people not working is estimated to have increased in three categories - the disabled, young people (aged 16 to 24) and older people (between 50 and state pension age).

A total of 3,338,000 disabled people are said to be unemployed, an increase of 119,000 over the period. Policy Exchange partly blames the rise on the tightening of rules for incapacity benefit claimants. It says the changes have had the perverse effect of discouraging disabled people from seeking work for fear they might have to reapply for benefit under the new regulations.

Since 1997, the number of inactive young people has grown by 219,000, not all of which is explained by an increase in the student population. Nearly 10 per cent of the 16 to 24 age group - 636,000 - are not working, in education or registered unemployed. The report says it fears the New Deal for Young People could be counter- productive by driving them out of the system altogether, disengaging them from "mainstream society".

Its authors say: "These people have been failed by Labour's welfare-to-work initiatives and we fear they make up Britain's Generation X." Policy Exchange says the number of economically inactive people aged over 50 is also slightly higher than in 1997, with the trend worse among men. Nearly half of this category are inactive because of long-term sickness or disability.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "The population has gone up by 1 million, so you would expect the economically inactive numbers to go up." She said 21.3 per cent of the working age population were out of the labour market, compared with 21.6 per cent in 1997.

Comments