Wales has UK worst economic inactivity rate - ONS

General view of houses in Welsh valleyImage source, Getty Images
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Economic inactively rates in Wales have generally been above the UK average throughout the past decade

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Wales has the highest rate in the UK of working age people not in employment or looking for a job, according to new estimates.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that 28.4% of 16-64 year olds in Wales were economically inactive in the three months to April, compared to a UK average of 22.3%.

But the jobless rate in Wales of 3.5% was lower than the UK average of 4.4%.

The ONS has warned that the figures should be treated with caution because of shrinking response rates to its survey.

Economic inactivity rates had been declining sharply in Wales before the pandemic, but since then they have increased across the UK as a whole.

But rates in Wales have generally been above the UK average throughout the past decade.

Long-term sickness is the biggest reason, followed by studying and home-making.

The ONS gathers the figures about the jobs market by conducting surveys and has recently warned that its statistics should be treated as “in development” because of small sample sizes.

It also recommends looking at other available information about the jobs market.

HMRC payroll data has been stable for Wales in the 12 months to April, showing a small gain of 6,000 in the number of paid employees in Wales.

The total number of paid employees is just under 1.32 million, according to HMRC data.

Welsh Conservative shadow economy minister Samuel Kurtz said the latest ONS estimates showed the Welsh Labour government “had no plan for Wales’ economy.”

He said: “Labour-run Wales, Keir Starmer’s ‘blueprint’ for government, has the highest economic inactivity and the lowest employment rate in the whole UK and the disparity is still worsening.”

“While the Welsh Conservatives push for ambitious jobs targets for the people of Wales, with a renewed focus on education and skills, Labour and Plaid push ahead with their costly plans to create 36 more politicians. They have the wrong priorities for Wales.”

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said the figures were “a damning indictment both on the Conservatives at Westminster and Labour in Wales for failing to unlock Wales' huge potential.”

"Only Plaid Cymru has the ambition to transform the Welsh economy, starting with demanding fair funding for our public services and the devolution of the key economic levers to Wales."

A spokesperson for the Labour Welsh government said: "Failure to stimulate economic growth across the UK continues to negatively impact the employment market, with Wales no exception."

They said other data sources "suggest that the labour market in Wales has followed similar trends to the UK since the pandemic".

They added that their plan for employability and skills was "prioritising those most in need of help. This includes supporting people to stay in work and those further away from the labour market to find employment."