Just how many families are there where three generations have ‘never worked’?

In seeking to justify the government's reforms to the benefits system, Iain Duncan Smith has previously claimed that there exists a situation in Britain where "three generations of the same family have [often] never worked". However all the the evidence shows what an insignificant problem "three generations of out-of-work families" are in the grand scheme of things.

In seeking to justify the government’s reforms to the benefits system, Iain Duncan Smith has previously claimed that there exists a situation in Britain where “three generations of the same family have [often] never worked”.

Former National Director of Health and Work, Dame Carol Black, while investigating the UK’s incapacity benefits system, also claimed that there were households in which three generations of men had never worked. Reporting on her comments, the Daily Mail chipped in with the claim that:

“Thousands of children are growing up in families where their parents and grandparents have never worked.”

However all the the evidence shows what an insignificant problem “three generations of out-of-work families” are in the grand scheme of things.

The Labour Force Survey showed that in the spring of 2010 only 0.3 per cent of multi-generational households were in a position where both generations had never worked – or in other words just 15,000 households in the entire country.

Of these, in 5,000 households the younger generation had recently left full-time education within the last year, meaning that they may well have only recently started to look for a job.

Where families don’t live together in the same house (see the British Cohort Study, the National Child Development Study and the British Household Panel Survey) the same holds true. There is very little evidence of even two-generations of families never having worked. Therefore instances of families where three generations have never worked would, one imagines, be even rarer.

Using the straw man of “three generations of out of work families” as rationale for welfare reform is a bit like using Michael Philpott as your example of what a typical user of the welfare state looks like. Oh, hang on a minute.

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