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Chapter 4: Physical Wealth, Wealth in Great Britain 2010-12 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 15 May 2014 Download PDF

Key Points

  • Aggregate physical wealth for all households in Great Britain rose by £86 billion to £1,102 billion in current prices between 2008/10 and 2010/12 - an increase of 9%. 

  • Mean household physical wealth stood at £45,500, up from £41,100 in 2008/10. 

  • More than three-quarters of aggregate physical wealth (77%) comprised household goods and contents in household’s main residences. 

  • Just over one in ten households (11%) owned collectables or valuables (such as antiques, artwork and stamps). 

  • Personalised number plates were owned by 7% of households. 

  • Households in the South East had the highest (£52,400) and households in the North West the lowest (£40,200) mean value of physical wealth.

Introduction

This chapter looks at estimates of household physical wealth from the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS). In WAS, physical wealth is derived from respondents’ own estimates of the value of the contents of their main residence, the contents of any property which the household owns other than the main residence and also collectables, valuables, vehicles and personalised number plates. The measure of physical wealth is based on the personal, private wealth of households. This means that it does not include business assets owned by household members.

Much of the analysis in this chapter is presented at the household level. This means that all physical assets held by individuals living within households have been added together to produce household totals.

Some individual-level analyses are presented towards the end of the chapter, considering the distribution of individuals by age, education level, economic activity and socio-economic classification across the physical wealth bands of the household they live in.

Goods and contents of main residence

Household goods and contents consist of items found in the home such as furniture, clothing and electronic equipment. The questionnaire makes it clear that the value of household goods reported by respondents should not include collectables, valuables, bicycles or other vehicles. Unlike the other wealth components, every household has some physical assets.

Table 4.1 shows the distribution of households across the banded values of household goods and contents . In 2006/08, 11% of households valued the goods and contents in their main residence in the lowest physical wealth band, i.e. less than £5,000. This percentage fell to 9% in 2008/10 and in 2010/12, 7% of households valued the goods in their main residence less than £5,000.

Three in every five households (61%) valued the goods in their main residence less than £30,000 in 2006/08. This percentage fell to 56% in 2008/10 and 52% in 2010/12.

Considering the other end of the distribution, 15% of households in 2006/08 placed a value of more than £50,000 on the contents of their main residence. This rose by 2 percentage points to 17% in 2008/10. In 2010/12, more than one in every five households (20%) valued the household goods and contents in their main residence at £50,000 or more. Across all three waves of the survey, 2% of households valued their household goods at £100,000 or more.

Table 4.1: Distribution of household goods in main residence, by banded values: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Less than £5,000 £5,000 but < £10,000 £10,000 but < £20,000 £20,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £40,000 £40,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 but < £75,000 £75,000 but < £100,000 £100,000 or more All Households
2006/08 11 13 19 18 14 11 10 3 2 100
2008/10 9 12 17 18 15 12 12 3 2 100
2010/12 7 12 16 17 14 13 14 4 2 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample.

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Notes for Goods and contents of main residence

  1. Collection and presentation of data  - goods and contents in main residence

    The largest component of physical wealth is the value of households’ goods and contents in their main residence. The way respondents are asked to value these differs from other valuation methods used in WAS. Respondents find this hard to estimate precisely, so are asked to give ‘the approximate replacement value of household contents, which ‘is the approximate cost of replacing the items now, and may be similar to the insured value’. Respondents are asked to select one of ten bands for the value of household goods starting with ‘less than £5,000’ and ending at ‘£200,000 or more’. In order to estimate a precise value for household goods and contents for each household, which can then be used to produce estimates of total physical wealth and total household wealth, the mid-point of each band is taken to be the actual value (e.g. all households in the band £5,000 but less than £10,000 would be assigned a precise value of £7,500) with the open ended upper band ‘£200,000 or more’ band being valued at £300,000. Since this is the case, the preferred method is to present the mean for goods and contents instead of the median. 

Contents in property other than main residence

Household goods may also be owned in property other than the main residence (for example in second homes or buy-to-lets) . Inconsistencies in the way data were collected on goods and contents in other properties meant comparable estimates across the three waves were not available.

In 2010/12, the percentage of households declaring a value for goods in property other than their main residence was 7%. The value of these goods and contents, as a distribution across the value bands, is given in table 4.2. Due to the smaller numbers of households involved, some bands have been merged.

Nearly a quarter of households (23%) with goods or contents in properties other than their main residence valued these at less than £5,000. One in ten households (10%) with goods or contents in other property estimated the value of these at £50,000 or more.

Table 4.2: Distribution of household goods in properties other than main residence1, by banded values: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentages (%)
Less than £5,000 £5,000 but < £10,000 £10,000 but < £20,000 £20,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 or more All Households
2010/12 23 29 20 7 11 10 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Results exclude households without other property, and without goods or contents within these.

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Notes for Contents in property other than main residence

  1. Other household goods and collectables, vehicles and personalised number plates

    For all other physical assets respondents are first asked to estimate the value of the asset. If the respondent is unable to estimate a precise value, they are offered a choice of banded values. The precise values of these banded responses are later imputed, based on the distribution of the actual values obtained from other respondents. It is, therefore, statistically valid to consider median values using both actual and imputed data. For comparison purposes, the other goods and collectables estimates have been presented using banded values.

Collectables and valuables

The survey asks households about collectables and valuables they own, such as antiques, artwork and stamps. Table 4.3 shows that in 2006/08, 12% of all households owned collectables and valuables, which decreased in 2008/10 to 11%, remaining unchanged in 2010/12.

Table 4.3: Percentage of households with collectables or valuables: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

2006/08 2008/10 2010/12
Percentage with collectables and valuables (%) 12 11 11

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample.

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Table 4.4 gives the distribution of households with collectables and valuables, across the value bands. Just over half of households with collectables or valuables (51%), estimated these to be valued at less than £5,000 in 2010/12. Over one in twenty households with collectables or valuables estimated their value to be enough to fall into the top band of £50,000 or more (6%) in 2010/12.

Table 4.4: Distribution of household collectables and valuables: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Less than £5,000 £5,000 but < £10,000 £10,000 but < £25,000 £25,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 or more All Households
2006/08 50 20 19 6 5 100
2008/10 51 19 19 6 5 100
2010/12 51 18 18 7 6 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Results exclude households without collectables or valuables.
  2. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample.

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Vehicles and number plates

The survey asked households about ownership of vehicles including cars, vans and motorbikes. Respondents are asked not to include leased vehicles and company vehicles, as these do not belong to the household. Thus, the figures in this chapter do not indicate how many households have the use of vehicles. Respondents here were asked first for a precise estimate of value, and only offered bands if they could not give a precise estimate.

Households are first asked about any cars, vans or motorbikes that they own, after which they are asked about other vehicles they may own.  During the first two waves (2006/08 and 2008/10), a filter question asking respondents whether they owned other vehicles was asked - ‘Do you (or other members of your household) own any other type of vehicle, for example a caravan or boat?‘. Bicycles were not specifically mentioned in this filter question, although bicycles were one of the options given. Therefore some households may not have responded to the initial question if they did not regard a bicycle as another vehicle. In 2010/12 this filter question was no longer asked. This has led to a step change in the percentage of households reporting other vehicles (see Table 4.5).

The percentage of households owning vehicles rose by 4 percentage points between 2008/10 and 2010/12, with over three-quarters of all households (79%) owning one or more vehicles (Table 4.5). This is largely driven by the increase in the number of households reporting ‘other’ vehicles between 2008/10 and 2010/12. Nevertheless, there was still a small rise in the percentage of households owning a car; from 73% in 2006/08 and 2008/10, rising to 74% in 2010/12.

Table 4.5: Percentage of households owning vehicles and personalised number plates: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

Percentage (%)
  2006/08 2008/10 2010/12
Cars 73 73 74
Vans 4 4 4
Motorbikes 4 4 4
No car, van or motorbike 27 26 25
Other vehicles3 5 5 31
Personalised plates 5 6 7
All Vehicles4 74 75 79

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Households might own more than one vehicle.
  2. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample.
  3. Changes to the questionnaire at wave 3 had an impact on the recording of other vehicles – see Box 3 in chapter.
  4. Includes personalised plates.

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Half of all households with at least one vehicle estimated the combined value of all of their vehicles at £5,000 or more; a value which has remained constant across each of the three waves of the survey (Table 4.6). The questionnaire changes related to the recording of bicycles, help to explain the large fall in the median value of other vehicles between 2008/10 and 2010/12.

Tables 4.5 and 4.6 also show results for ownership of personalised number plates. The percentage of households reporting ownership of a personalised number plate has risen slightly between the three waves of the survey, from 5% in 2006/08 to 6% in 2008/10 to 7% in 2010/12. Half of all households who owned personalised number plates valued them at £500 or more, a median value which is unchanged across the three waves of the survey.

Table 4.6: Median value of vehicles and personalised number plates: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

£
    2006/08 2008/10 2010/12
Cars, vans, motorbikes       5,000       5,000       5,000
Other vehicles3         3,000       2,300          200
Personalised number plates          500          500          500
All vehicles4         5,000       5,000       5,000

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Results exclude households without this type physical asset.
  2. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample.
  3. Changes to the questionnaire at wave 3 had an impact on the recording of other vehicles.
  4. Includes personalised number plates.

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Total household physical wealth

Total household physical wealth is calculated as the sum of the values recorded for each household for contents of the main residence, contents of other property, collectables and valuables, vehicles and personalised number plates. Households may borrow money to buy things such as vehicles and contents. However, borrowing to finance such purchases will be covered when considering financial wealth. For these reasons, total physical wealth figures are only ever presented on a gross basis and do not consider liabilities.

Table 4.7 shows the mean for total physical wealth. The mean value of household physical wealth increased from £39,100 in 2006/08, to £41,100 in 2008/10 and to £45,500 in 2010/12.

Table 4.7: Total household gross physical wealth: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

£
2006/08 2008/10 2010/12
Mean household gross physical wealth 39,100 41,100 45,500

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample.
  2. Only mean values are given. This is due to the way in which the data is collected.

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Table 4.8 gives the aggregate values for household physical wealth for all households in Great Britain (i.e. the weighted sum of total physical wealth for every household). The aggregate value of total physical wealth was estimated to have increased by 6% to £1,016 billion between 2006/08 and 2008/10. Between 2008/10 and 2010/12 the value increased, this time by 9% to £1,102 billion.

Table 4.8: Aggregate estimates of household gross physical wealth: Great Britain, 2006/08 - 2010/12

£ Billion
  2006/08 2008/10 2010/12
Aggregate household gross physical wealth            961         1,016         1,102

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. 2006/08 estimates based on half sample and multiplied by factor of 1.76845.

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Figure 4.9 shows the breakdown of total household physical wealth into its five main components. In 2010/12, the value of the contents in the main residence accounted for over three quarters of the total (77%), while the value of vehicles made the second largest contribution (15%).

Figure 4.9: Breakdown of household gross physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentage (%)

Figure 4.9: Breakdown of household gross physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. It should be noted that this chart is not strictly comparable to the equivalent chart in Wealth in Great Britain 2008/10, as the value of contents in property overseas was not included for 2008/10.

 

Household physical wealth by key characteristics

This section considers differences in total household physical wealth by region of residence and household type.

Physical Wealth by region

Figure 4.10 shows mean household physical wealth according to the location of the main residence of the household. It shows Scotland, Wales and the nine English regions (with London shown separately; the figures for the South East exclude London).

The highest mean household physical wealth was observed for households in the South East, with a mean value of £52,400 in 2010/12. The lowest mean values of gross physical wealth were for households in the North West and the West Midlands (£40,200 and £41,400 respectively).

Figure 4.10: Distribution of household gross physical wealth, by region of residence: Great Britain, 2010/12

Figure 4.10: Distribution of household gross physical wealth, by region of residence: Great Britain, 2010/12
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey - Office for National Statistics

Physical wealth by household type

Figure 4.11 shows household physical wealth according to the type of household. This is split into 10 categories of household types. Households comprising of couples with no children, where one person is over and the other under the state  pension age had the highest household physical wealth, with a mean value of £66,000 in 2010/12. Couple households with non-dependent children had the second highest mean average physical wealth (£60,000).

Single person households where the householder was under the state pension age had the lowest mean average physical wealth (£26,600) in 2010/12. The second lowest value of mean household physical wealth was seen for lone parent households with non-dependent children (£27,400).

Mean physical wealth values were noticeably higher for couple households compared with single person households. Part of this can again be explained by the number of individuals living in the household. A couple household will contain more individuals who are able to accumulate wealth and increase physical asset holdings. 

Figure 4.11: Distribution of household gross physical wealth, by household type: Great Britain, 2010/12

Figure 4.11: Distribution of household gross physical wealth, by household type: Great Britain, 2010/12
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey - Office for National Statistics

 

Notes for Household physical wealth by key characteristics

  1. State Pension Age - the age at which an individual can draw their state pension. The same definition of SPA has been used for all waves of WAS, i.e. SPA for men is 65 and SPA for women 60. SPA started to change for women in April 2010, with SPA increasing monthly so that by November 2018 women’s SPA will be the same as that for men, 65. SPA will be increased for both men and women to 66 by October 2020, with further increases announced by the government but not yet approved by parliament.

Household Physical Wealth by individual characteristics

This section looks at some key characteristics of individuals living in households by physical wealth bands. It is important to remember that analysis presents individual characteristics by the total physical wealth of the household that the individual lives within. In certain instances it is possible that this wealth is more likely attributed to other individuals living within that household. 

Gender and Marital Status

The percentage of married individuals living in households in the lowest physical wealth band in 2010/12 was lower than any other marital status group (4% of both men and women lived in households with physical wealth less than £8,000 - Table 4.12). There are a number of reasons which might help to explain this. For instance, married individuals might be able to spend more on physical assets with their combined incomes than certain other marital status groups (e.g. single individuals). Also, married individuals are, on average, older than individuals who are cohabiting or single (please see demographic chapter), resulting in them earning relatively more than young individuals, and providing more opportunity for them to accumulate physical wealth over time. A higher percentage of separated individuals than any other marital status group lived in households in the lowest physical wealth band (28% of men and 20% of women). This could partly be explained through the transient nature of this marital status, whereby the physical contents may not yet have been split equally between the separated couple.

Married individuals were the most likely to live in households with physical wealth of £75,000 or more. Just over one in five married individuals lived in households with enough physical wealth to belong to the highest wealth band (21% for both married men and women). Individuals whose marital status was either divorced or separated were the least likely to live in households with physical wealth in the highest band (Separated – 5% of men and 9% of women; Divorced – 6% of men and women).

Table 4.12: Individuals by gender and marital status, by household physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Gender and Marital Status Less than £8,000 £8,000 but < £12,000 £12,000 but < £16,000 £16,000 but < £25,000 £25,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £40,000 £40,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 but < £60,000 £60,000 but < £75,000 £75,000 or more Total
Men                      
 - Married1 4 2 4 8 9 13 14 9 16 21 100
 - Cohabiting2 9 7 6 13 10 16 11 7 10 12 100
 - Single3 13 5 7 10 10 13 11 6 11 14 100
 - Widowed 16 5 9 9 13 12 13 3 11 8 100
 - Divorced 22 9 10 12 10 10 9 5 7 6 100
 - Separated4 28 11* 10* 7* 7* 12 10 2* 8* 5* 100
All men 9 4 6 9 10 13 12 7 13 16 100
Women                      
 - Married1 4 2 4 8 9 13 14 9 16 21 100
 - Cohabiting2 9 7 6 13 10 16 11 7 10 11 100
 - Single3 13 5 7 10 10 12 11 7 11 14 100
 - Widowed 13 2 14 5 16 15 11 4 11 9 100
 - Divorced 16 4 11 7 15 14 11 4 10 6 100
 - Separated4 20 5* 11 10 17 10 11 3* 6 9 100
All women 9 4 7 9 10 13 12 7 13 16 100
All Persons 9 4 6 9 10 13 12 7 13 16 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes civil partnerships.
  2. Includes same sex couples.
  3. Includes persons of any age.
  4. Includes civil partnership separations/dissolutions.
  5. * indicates a data point based on a small sample - such data points should be treated with some caution.

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Age

The highest percentage of individuals living in households in the lowest physical wealth band was amongst the 25-34 year old age group (11% of such individuals lived in households with physical wealth less than £8,000) (Table 4.13). This might be partly explained through younger people earning less than older and more experienced people, and therefore less able to purchase physical assets. Also, younger individuals will have had fewer years to accumulate physical wealth. Individuals aged 55-64 years were least likely to live in households with physical wealth in the lowest band.

Individuals aged between 55-64 years had the highest percentage living within households with physical wealth of £75,000 or more (22%).  Those individuals who were aged between 25 and 34 years were least likely to live in households with the highest amounts of physical wealth (10%).

Table 4.13: Individuals by age, by household physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Age Less than £8,000 £8,000 but < £12,000 £12,000 but < £16,000 £16,000 but < £25,000 £25,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £40,000 £40,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 but < £60,000 £60,000 but < £75,000 £75,000 or more Total
Under 16 11 5 6 10 10 13 12 7 12 14 100
16-24 11 4 6 9 10 12 12 7 13 16 100
25-34 11 6 7 14 11 14 11 6 9 10 100
35-44 9 4 6 9 9 14 13 8 12 16 100
45-54 7 3 5 7 9 12 13 8 15 21 100
55-64 6 2 4 7 9 13 12 9 15 22 100
65+ 9 3 8 7 12 14 12 7 15 14 100
All Persons 9 4 6 9 10 13 12 7 13 16 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Education level

Table 4.14 shows the percentage of individuals living in households with different values of physical wealth by education level. The percentage of individuals educated at degree level or above living in households with physical wealth of £75,000 or more (the highest physical wealth band) was 23% – 13 percentage points higher than individuals reporting no educational qualifications.

One in twenty individuals with degree level qualifications or above lived in households with physical wealth amounting to £8,000 or less (5%). This compares with 16% of individuals reporting no qualifications.

Table 4.14: Individuals by education level, by household physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Education Level Less than £8,000 £8,000 but < £12,000 £12,000 but < £16,000 £16,000 but < £25,000 £25,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £40,000 £40,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 but < £60,000 £60,000 but < £75,000 £75,000 or more Total
Degree Level or above 5 4 4 9 8 13 12 8 14 23 100
Other qualifications 7 4 6 9 10 13 13 8 14 16 100
No qualifications 16 4 9 8 13 13 11 5 11 10 100
All Persons1 9 4 6 9 10 14 13 7 14 17 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes only eligible adults who gave their education level.

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Economic Activity

Table 4.15 shows the percentage of individuals living in households with different values of physical wealth by economic activity. Just over a quarter of self-employed individuals (26%) lived in households with physical wealth of £75,000 or more. This is 8 percentage points higher than employees and 19 percentage points higher than unemployed individuals living in households within the highest band of physical wealth.

The percentage of individuals living in households within the lowest physical wealth band was highest for those who were economically inactive due to sickness or disability, or who were unemployed (27% and 22% respectively). Self-employed individuals were the least likely to live in households with physical wealth of less than £8,000 (4%).

Table 4.15: Individuals by economic activity, by household physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Economic Activity Less than £8,000 £8,000 but < £12,000 £12,000 but < £16,000 £16,000 but < £25,000 £25,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £40,000 £40,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 but < £60,000 £60,000 but < £75,000 £75,000 or more Total
Economically Active                      
  In Employment 6 4 5 10 9 14 13 8 14 19 100
    Employee 6 4 5 10 9 14 13 8 14 18 100
    Self Employed 4 3 4 8 8 12 13 8 14 26 100
  Unemployed 22 6 9 10 12 13 9 4 9 7 100
Economically Inactive                      
  Student 14 4 5 8 10 12 12 6 11 17 100
  Looking after family/home 19 6 8 9 11 12 10 5 8 10 100
  Sick / disabled1 27 5 14 7 12 9 9 3 7 7 100
  Retired 9 3 7 7 12 13 12 7 16 15 100
  Other Inactive 14 4 7 9 9 15 10 5 12 15 100
All Persons2 9 4 6 9 10 13 12 7 13 16 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Data for temporarily sick or disabled has been combined with long term sick and disabled.
  2. Only includes eligible adults who gave their economic activity.

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Socio-Economic Group

Over one in four individuals classified in the group ‘large employers and higher managerial’ lived in households with physical wealth of £75,000 or more (27%) (Table 4.16). Individuals working in routine occupations were the least likely to live in a household within the highest physical wealth band (9%).

The percentage of individuals living in households within the lowest physical wealth band was highest for those who were working in routine occupations (27%). Individuals working in the classifications ‘large employers and higher managerial’ and ‘higher professional’ were the least likely to live in households with physical wealth of less than £8,000 (3%).

Table 4.16: Individuals by socio-economic classification, by household physical wealth: Great Britain, 2010/12

Percentage (%)
Socio-economic Classification Less than £8,000 £8,000 but < £12,000 £12,000 but < £16,000 £16,000 but < £25,000 £25,000 but < £30,000 £30,000 but < £40,000 £40,000 but < £50,000 £50,000 but < £60,000 £60,000 but < £75,000 £75,000 or more Total
Large employers and higher managerial 3 2 4 7 6 12 13 9 16 27 100
Higher professional 3 3 4 9 9 14 14 9 14 22 100
Lower managerial and professional 4 3 5 10 10 14 15 8 14 16 100
Intermediate occupations 5 4 4 8 10 12 14 8 14 21 100
Small employers and own account workers 6 5 6 11 9 16 14 8 13 13 100
Lower supervisory and technical 11 5 8 10 12 12 12 7 12 11 100
Semi-routine occupations 15 6 8 12 11 15 10 4 10 10 100
Routine occupations 27 5 10 8 11 11 7 4 8 9 100
Never worked/long term unemployed 13 4 8 7 11 13 12 6 13 13 100
All Persons1 9 4 6 9 10 13 12 7 13 16 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes only adults who are 16 years old and above, not in full time education and gave sufficient information to determine socio-economic group.

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Background notes

  1. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

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