April 21, 2024

Is ill-health holding back the UK economy? – podcast | News

New figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest there are 2.8 million people classified as not looking for work because of health issues – up from the 2.6 million previously estimated and a one-third increase on the 2.1 million before the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, tells Hannah Moore, this is a shocking rise and each of those people will have individual and often complex circumstances. There is no easy fix. But it is a situation that has not appeared out of nowhere: while the Covid pandemic has clearly had a huge effect on physical and mental health, many of the underlying trends have been clear for decades. And NHS waiting lists have tripled in length since the Conservatives took over in 2010.

We hear the stories of two people, forced out of work by health problems that have left them demoralised and furious at the labelling they have received from some areas of the media as “generation sicknote”.

On Wednesday, Jeremy Hunt will give his last budget before the general election. Will he do anything to address the growing long-term sickness?

The back of a woman on an upper floor balcony

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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