As the UK launched its new immigration system, Home Secretary Priti Patel came under fire for implying the 8.5 million “economically inactive” Britons could be tapped into by British businesses. The implication was this cohort – approximately 20 percent of the UK’s working age population – could be used to fill the expected shortfall in low-skilled workers.
The Office for National Statistics confirms there were approximately 8.5 million “economically inactive” people in the UK between October and December 2019. However, the term has a specific definition that undermines the Home Secretary’s assertion these people would be ready and willing to fill vacancies caused by the new immigration system.
To be economically inactive, a person has to be:
Aged 16-64 and they have not been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and/or they are unable to start work within the next two weeks.
Headline categories in ONS data include those who are long-term sick, students, looking after a family and the retired. How many of these people would be ready and willing to accept low paid or low skilled work post 2020 is not recorded. Implying there is a potential 8 million strong workforce waiting to step in to jobs is disingenuous at best.