The multiple risk factors of worklessness

By isolating the ‘risk factors’ and certain combinations of ‘risk factors’ associated with a person’s chance of being out of work, new analysis from the West Midlands Observatory can help decision makers get to grips with the complex interplay of issues behind the current high rate of worklessness across the West Midlands.

The research is already informing the Department for Work and Pensions in its review of welfare policy, as it provides insights into the major factors influencing a person’s chances of being in or out of work. It shows that these chances can vary greatly according to the individual’s background and personal characteristics. The research demonstrates how combinations of factors such as having no formal qualifications or a long-term health problem or disability, or being a lone parent, affect a person’s chance of being out of work.

The multiple risk factors research considered a number of factors that can affect an individual’s chances of being workless, including age (being a young person or an older person), belonging to a minority ethnic group, being a lone parent, having a long term health problem or disability and having no qualifications.

The research found that people who have none of these risk factors have a low chance of being out of work—only a 6 per cent chance for men and a 14 per cent chance for women, and are therefore unlikely to require Welfare to Work policy intervention.

Let our researchers explain in this video…

Watch slidecast (with audio) | Download slides (ppt, 2.98mb)

Having any single risk factor raises the probability of being workless substantially, to an average of 2 in 10 for men and 3 in 10 for women. For example, having a long-term health problem or disability increases the likelihood of being workless to more than 3 in 10 for men and women.

Having two risk factors raises the probability of being workless even further. In most cases, people with two risk factors are more likely to be workless than in work, and around five times more likely to be workless than someone with no risk factors.

The starkest example of this effect is amongst Pakistani/Bangladeshi females with no formal qualifications, where 9 out of 10 are not working.

People with a long-term health problem or disability and no formal qualifications also have a very high probability of worklessness: 7 out of 10 for women, 6 out of 10 for men.

So Welfare to Work programmes aimed at getting people back into work should focus on those people who have at least one risk factor, but then take a ‘whole person’ approach, rather than tackling factors such as age, ethnicity or disability in isolation.

The results of this research are available on the West Midlands Regional Observatory website, along with charts and example posters showing some examples of key findings.

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