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Economic Inactivity Literature Review . March 2014 Professor Ronald McQuaid University of Stirling

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Economic Inactivity Literature Review

March 2014

Professor Ronald McQuaid

University of Stirling

Presentation as part of: “Enabling Success” Consultation on a New Strategic Framework to Tackle Economic Inactivity in Northern Ireland – Driving Social Change Through Economic Participation - Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland



Economic inactivity related to:

  • family commitments, specifically lone parents
  • work-limiting health conditions or disabilitiesPrimarily based on academic findings using desk based research and some statistical analysis

KEY FINDINGS - Family Commitments

- Disabilities- Conclusions


Some pathways into inactivity

  • Family responsibility:
  • Heterogeneity
  • Young vs older separation/divorce lone parents
  • Likelihood of remaining economically ‘inactive’ rises with number of children, disability of child etc.

Lone parents and caring

Inactivity rates of lone parents much greater in NI than GB.

Married/co-habiting and no dependents not greatly different

in NI and GB

mothers returning to work
Mothers returning to work

More likely to return to work if:

  • employed during pregnancy
  • working in the public sector
  • working for a larger employer
  • (longer) duration of job pre-birth, generous maternity pay, particularly occupational provision in addition to the statutory entitlement
  • partnered rather than single
  • highly qualified
mothers returning to work1
Mothers returning to work

Less likely if:

  • from certain ethnic backgrounds
  • lone mothers
  • partner works long hours

Family responsibilities –

policy lessons

  • Holistic and tailored support  
  • Partnership working
  • Good advisers
  • Training and qualifications
  • Making work pay

1. BACKGROUND TO THE RESEARCH2. KEY FINDINGS - Family Commitments- Disabilities - Conclusions


Some pathways into inactivity

  • Disability:
  • disability from childhood
  • disability during working life

Disability and caring

Inactivity rates of disabled greater in NI than GB, especially for lone parents and those with no dependents



  • The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a person with disabilities as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities
  • Those with DDA and a work limiting disability are most likely to be inactive

Disability and employment issues

  • Entering ‘main stream employment’:
    • employability (skills, qualifications etc);
    • accessible work (physical, work organisation);
    • attitudes of employers (and co-workers).
  • Type of job (part-time, low pay, low skilled)
  • Types and severity of disabilities (e.g. diabetes vs mental)
  • Sheltered workplaces

People with disabilities –

policy lessons

  • a focus on employers and workplaces
  • supporting the whole range of jobs
  • employability
  • awareness about programmes
  • integrated approach

1. BACKGROUND TO THE RESEARCH2. KEY FINDINGS - Contextual analysis - Family Commitments - Disabilities- Conclusions



  • Reducing inactivity is important for NI
  • Alternatives to paid employment for some
  • Policies may appear to be gender, disability, family-blind etc. but in reality may not be
  • Not just an ‘add on’ to existing policies

Thank you for listening

Report is available at:

McQuaid, R., Shapira, M., Graham, H. and Raeside, R. (2013) Economic Inactivity Research Project (those with family commitments and the long-term sick and disabled) - Literature Review (Project-11040), Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland