The proportion of people out of work due to prolonged ill health has now hit a 20-year high, with long-term sickness becoming the most common reason for being out of work.
Around 2.3 million – one in four – of the 8.7 million people who are out of work and not looking for a job cited long-term sickness as the reason, according to analysis of new data Office for National Statistics data conducted by Pro Bono Economics.
“Long-term sickness now accounts for 26 per cent of all economic inactivity – the largest single reason cited – and a proportion high not seen since 2002,” said Helen Barnard, research and policy director at the organisation.
Almost 400,000 people have removed themselves from work altogether since the pandemic started and are neither working nor looking for a job, the ONS said. Half of those said it was due to long-term illness.
Long term-ill health has been “rising consistently over the last two years to overtake ‘students’” who are increasingly likely to be in-work, said Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.
Many of those who are out of work are “people who had poor health pre-pandemic, but have left work or (have) not been able to return” he continued. Long-term sickness is defined as having a health problem lasting 12 months or longer.