Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Feckless Reporting

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Feckless Reporting

Article excerpt

How big is the UK's welfare problem? According to a recent Daily Express headline, there are now four million "scrounging families" reliant on the state.

The data tells a different story. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there are 3.88 million workless households (defined as those in which no one aged 16 to 64 is in employment) - 38,000 fewer than a year ago.

Significantly, 2.92 million (75 per cent of the total) are defined as "inactive" - those households in which residents are either not looking for employment or are unable to work. Of this group, 34 per cent are inactive as a result of long-term illness or disability, and 24 per cent are retired.

Thus, unless you agree that pensioners and the sick, including those with severe illnesses, should be described as "scroungers", it is impossible to see the Express headline as anything other than misleading. …

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