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The Guardian: Is ill-health holding back the UK economy?

ONS figures suggest long-term sickness is preventing more people from looking for work

Larry Elliot – The Guardian

Article extracts

According to the latest evidence the UK has an even bigger problem with inactivity due to long-term sickness than previously thought.

Fresh figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest there are now 2.8 million people classified as not looking for work because of health issues – up from the 2.6 million previously estimated and a one-third increase on the 2.1 million before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ONS has rejigged its view of what has been happening to employment, unemployment and inactivity in order to take account of the fact the size of the UK’s population has been revised up. Its tentative conclusions are that the labour market is bigger, sicker and tighter than the old data suggested.

Hannah Slaughter, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said:

“Tackling rising ill-health is a huge social and economic challenges that we’ll be facing throughout the 2020s, as will getting the UK employment back up to and beyond pre-pandemic levels.”

The ONS view of recent short-term developments has also changed. It believes unemployment stood at 3.9% in the three months ending in November last year, lower than its previous 4.2% estimate.

“The new figures show that the labour market is tighter than believed previously. Furthermore there is no evidence that conditions have loosened recently,” said Philip Shaw of Investec.

Further media coverageSO

Daily MailWhy are so many Brits long-term sick?

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