Comment on economic inactivity statistics

The ONS today announced that the number of working-age adults who are out of the labour market (known as “economically inactive”) because of long-term sickness has risen since 2019, from around 2.0 million people in spring 2019, to about 2.5 million in summer 2022.

Commenting on the figures, David Pye, Director at independent consultancy Broadstone, said that employers will be keen to do all they can to help curb the rising trend of people exiting the workforce because they are suffering from long-term health problems.

“The sharp rise in the number of people exiting the workforce for health reasons is a major concern for businesses up and down the country. Both the pandemic and changes in migration patterns post Brexit have contributed to labour shortages, while the trend that started in 2019 for people to leave the labour market for long-term sickness appears to be accelerating.

“While more older workers are suffering from long-term sickness than their younger colleagues, rates of inactivity are rising the fastest for people between the ages of 16 and 34 and, as ‘other health problems’ are the most frequently cited reason for long-term illness, it is unclear what is causing the deteriorating health of the UK workforce.

“In the wake of COVID, and the difficult economic conditions businesses are facing, we have seen more employers than ever explore the possibility of providing private healthcare options that may help keep their workforce healthy and productive while supporting those who are unwell back to health as quickly as possible.”