New research shows targeted welfare to work provision is necessary to reduce worklessness

Welfare to work programmes aimed at getting people back into work should take a ‘whole person’ approach, rather than tackling factors such as age, ethnicity or disability in isolation, according to new research from the West Midlands Regional Observatory carried out on behalf of the West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel.

The research findings confirm those of other studies by the Observatory, that the West Midlands has one of the highest rates of worklessness in England, with some disadvantaged groups experiencing much higher rates of worklessness than others.

The latest research provides insights into the major factors influencing a person’s chances of being in or out of work and shows that these 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.

By isolating these risk factors and certain combinations of risk factors associated with a person’s chance of being out of work, the analysis 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 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. It 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. These people are no more likely to be workless in the West Midlands than in the rest of England, and are therefore unlikely to require Welfare to Work policy intervention.

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.

The increased probability of worklessness for people who have one or more risk factors is reinforced in the main urban areas of the region where the chance of being workless is higher than elsewhere in the region or in the rest of England.

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.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The factors we have concentrated on are:

  • Being a young person (aged 16-24)
  • Being an older person (aged over 55 to retirement age)
  • Being from a Black, Indian or Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group
  • Having a long-term health problem or disability
  • Being a lone parent
  • Having no qualifications

The research report, Worklessness in the West Midlands: the impact of demographics and multiple risk factors, was published 7th June 2010:

For further information about this research please contact Helena Duignan at the Observatory on 0121 202 3253 or helena.duignan@wmro.org.

For further information on the Economic Inclusion Panel please contact John Lee, the Panel’s Director, on 0121 352 5244 or john.lee@gowm.gsi.gov.uk.

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