December 8, 2010 • 12:38 pm

Spot the difference:

“1.6m benefits claimants have never had a job ‘because it does not pay to work’”

Daily Mail headline, 8 December 2010

“Information is not available on the reasons why an individual has never worked. For example some of these individuals may have disabilities or caring responsibilities, or have partners who work. Likewise, some will be claiming state benefits and some will not.”

Department for Work and Pensions research paper quoted by Daily Mail

The Mail is not the only paper to hone in on this statistic today. It also appears in this morning’s Express which comments on how these 1.6 million people have “embraced a life of idleness.”

While the Daily Telegraph employs a far more measured tone there is still no mention of the reasons why some of these people may not have worked, as set out clearly in the three page research paper published by DWP as quoted above.

Unfortunately there are no statistics available for the reasons why people have never worked. Although the Labour Force Survey does record a person’s reason for currently being out of work, this would not necessarily be the reason they have always been out of work.

Therefore there is no way of knowing precisely how many of the 1.6 million have never had a job due to caring responsibilities or disability.

However, credit should be given to Department of Work and Pensions for putting this research up on their website in a timely manner.

Following our complaint about previous research based on national statistics being provided to the media but not to the public, it is welcome that DWP seem to have paid attention to the ticking off they received from the UK Statistics Authority.

The way the statistics have been misrepresented by the press is a reminder, if one was needed, as to how important transparency in official figures is.

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