Mystery around massive half a million increase in long-term sick

Commuters walking through central London.
Figures have revealed that the UK's workforce has shrunk in the past three years. Credit: PA

Half a million additional people have dropped out of the workforce because of long term illness since 2019.

This is a huge increase.

Long Covid may account for less than a fifth of these disabled people, and younger people have seen some of the larger increases.

According to the ONS one cause may be record-long NHS waiting times for treatment.

But there is a mystery around why sickness has reduced the labour force quite so much.

It is a serious worry for the individuals, and it has made life much more difficult for employers - while ratcheting up inflation.

There are now 2.5 million people who are unavailable to work because of long-term sickness. This is a massive number of people.

Within the ONS release are charts of the biggest increases in reported medical reasons for withdrawing from the Labour market because of long-term illness.

Other health problems plus mental illness are among the top reasons given for people taking time away from work. Credit: Office for National Statistics

They are "other" (probably long Covid), "mental illness and nervous disorders" and "problems connected with back or neck".

And the sharp rises in long-term sickness among those aged between 16 and 34 are especially worrying.

A 42% rise in withdrawals from the labour market for those aged 25 to 34 is very striking and disturbing.

Unemployment rates amongst younger age groups has risen in recent years. Credit: Office For National Statistics

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