What are the causes of worklessness?

paper_pileThe Observatory’s economic inclusion team recently posted on this site to ask for any information on the causes and dynamics of worklessness for a literature review. The completed literature review is now available.

Key findings from the review are that:

  • several groups of people are at high risk of worklessness – these include people in poor health, lone parents, some minority ethnic groups, social tenants, carers, and ex-offenders.
  • disability/poor health and low qualifications are 2 of the most common barriers to employment
  • many other barriers to employment were identified including a lack of work experience, low confidence, caring responsibilities, employer attitudes, poor public transport and the structure of the benefits system
  • several factors influence a person’s decision to re-enter employment but the longer someone has been out of work, the less likely they are to return.

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More likely to die or retire than work again

After two years claiming incapacity benefit, a person is more likely to die or retire than work again, according to research highlighted in a recent report by the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The Economic Inclusion Baseline Report for the West Midlands (pdf, 1.06mb), shows the facts behind what has become a significant problem for the region.

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New research on economic inclusion in the West Midlands

Cover of economic inclusion baseline reportThe Observatory’s Economic Inclusion team has published a Baseline Report on Economic Inclusion (PDF, 2.16MB) pulling together regional analysis of key issues relating to worklessness, unemployment and economic inclusion in the West  Midlands.

This is the first comprehensive review of these key issues at regional level and the analysis enables consideration of the scale and distribution of worklessness problem within the region.

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What is ‘worklessness’?

question-mark‘Worklessness’ is a fairly new term that is starting to be used and heard more frequently but what does it mean? Is it just a different word for unemployment?

The answer is that worklessness is not the same as unemployment but there are several different definitions of worklessness.

In the national indicator set of 198 indicators for Local Authorities, the indicator on worklessness (NI 152) looks at the proportion of the working age population who are claiming an out-of-work benefit—either Jobseekers Allowance, Incapacity Benefits, Income Support for lone parents or other income related benefits.

Other groups have defined workless people as those who are out of work but would like to work.

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Worklessness and sustainable employment: Call for information

paper_pileThe Observatory’s Economic Inclusion team is currently investigating what evidence, data and research is available on these two topics:

  • Causes of worklessness
    This will include looking at the relationships between causal factors such as poor health, poverty, poor skills etc., movements in and out of the labour market and the dynamics of worklessness, issues of benefit dependency and benefits as a disincentive to formal employment.
  • Sustainability of employment
    In particular, we are looking for data and research that show how long people stay in work once entering employment after a period of worklessness. We would also be interested in any data or research that is available that considers factors such as demography, geography and industrial sector and the influence that these might have on sustainable employment.

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Changes to benefits system

Employment and Support Allowance - Working for a better lifeImportant changes were made to the benefits system in October 2008 which will have a major impact on claimants of incapacity benefits.

The aim is to simplify the system, and support claimants to return to work in line with the Government’s welfare to work policies and target of 80% employment rate.

Employment and Support Allowance is the new benefit that replaces Incapacity Benefit and Income Support (on incapacity grounds) for new customers from 27 October 2008.

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