“Under Labour, the number of workless households doubled”
That’s what Theresa May told the Commons in a fiery exchange with Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions today.
A “workless household” is a term used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to describe a household where no-one over the age of 16 is in work.
This includes people that are unemployed and people who are economically inactive – i.e. not looking for employment, perhaps because of illness or childcare commitments.
The Labour Force Survey, conducted by the ONS, shows that the number of workless households was about 3.7 million in April 1997 (when Labour took office) and 3.9 million when they left government in 2010.
That’s a rise of about 6.6 per cent – rather more modest than the 100 per cent increase Mrs May claims.
By the way, the data shown here only includes people aged 16 to 64.
And in fact, the proportion of households in Great Britain that were workless actually fell under Labour – from 19.8 per cent in 1997 to 19.2 per cent in 2010.
Weirdly, Mrs May’s predecessor was called out for the same error in 2014. David Cameron made an almost identical claim in 2014, and was shown to be incorrect by FullFact.
Perhaps the only saving grace for Mrs May is that at least she can say that since the Tories took office in 2010, the number of workless households has fallen.