Survey didn't find one in ten young people plan ‘never’ to work

13 December 2022
What was claimed

One in ten young people plan never to get a job.

Our verdict

This is not correct. It comes from a survey that found 9% of young people who were either in education or not working said they thought they would never start working. This amounted to about 4% of all young people.

One in ten young people have no intention whatsoever of getting a job, according to a new survey.

A column by Rod Liddle in the Sun claimed that a tenth of young people do not intend to work. Headlines in the Metro and Telegraph say the same. But this is not quite right.

The Sun article based its claim on the results of a survey of young people conducted by Opinium on behalf of the skills development charity City & Guilds, which found that 9% of 18 to 24-year-olds who were either in education or not in work thought they would “never” start working, in the words of the survey.

In short, it was not roughly one in ten of all young people who gave this answer, but about 4% of those surveyed. (The Metro and Telegraph articles explained this context later on.)

There is a clue to this misunderstanding in the Sun article: a figure from the City & Guilds press release that those saying they would never work amounted to 227,000 people across the UK.

We know, there are about 5.6 million people aged 18-24 in the UK, according to Office for National Statistics estimates for 2020—and 227,000 is about 4% of that total, not 9%.

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Do these people want to work?

The Sun article was also potentially misleading when it said that these people “have no intention” of working, although the phrase repeats a claim in the City & Guilds report, which says they “never intend to start working”.

City & Guilds shared the exact survey question with Full Fact, which shows that the young people who were either in education or not working were asked: “For the following question, please think realistically about your plans, taking into account larger economic factors and potential unpredictable events. Realistically, which, if any, of the following do you think you will achieve within the following time periods?” And for the option “Start working”, 9% of them selected “Never”.

We don’t know why these people thought that they would never start working.

Some may not “intend” to work, in the words of the Sun and the City & Guilds report, which may mean that they are able to work but plan not to.

Others may expect to be unable to work, perhaps because of a disability or caring duties, or because they expect no work to be available for them.

Indeed City & Guilds shared more of the survey data with us, which showed that around a quarter of those who said they expected never to start working also said they could not work or study due to an illness or disability that prevents them from doing so.

We have approached the newspapers mentioned in this article for comment.

Image courtesy of bruce mars

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