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What explains the growth in ‘never-worked’ households?

This report examines the rise in households in which no adult has ever worked and the reasons for it. It investigates what drove the substantial increase in ‘never-worked’ households between 1996 and 2005, and the subsequent stabilisation, after 2007, of the reported numbers.

The number of homes where no one has ever worked has doubled in little more than a decade. But is this a sign of growing ‘welfare dependency’ or the result of other factors? This report looks at the characteristics of ‘never-worked’ households and considers the possible reasons for the increase.

This report shows that:
• never-worked households are a relatively small and distinct group – only a little more than 1 per cent of non-student households – and are unlikely to be a good indicator of the level of ‘welfare dependency’;
• most never-worked household are lone parent households and younger single people; there is little or no evidence of a problem of ‘intergenerational worklessness’;
• never-worked households are highly concentrated in London and are disproportionately likely to be of (non-EU) immigrant origin, non-white and/or Muslim. However, a substantial majority of never-worked households are white, UK-born, and Christian/no religion;

• over the period, the proportion of never-worked households in London and some other big cities increased significantly;
• the recent fall in never-worked households may in part have been driven by a fall in the number of single person households that have never worked, possibly driven by slower household formation.