Employing new tactics: the changing distribution of work across British households

Inevitably, discussion of employment tends to focus on individuals. But this means that an understanding of how work – and the income that it brings – is shared across different types of households can be lost. During the 1980s and early-1990s employment became increasingly polarised in society, with increasing concentrations of workless single or couple households and dual earner couples.

This polarisation underpinned high rates of income poverty, particularly among children – 3.4 million children were in poverty by 1996-97 and one-in-five children lived in a workless household. In the last two decades the picture has changed dramatically, with the proportion of workless households in 2015 reaching a 30 year low – falling from 20.5 per cent in 1996 to 15.4 per cent in 2015.

This report investigates what has driven this fall and highlights the policy challenges that remain to further reduce worklessness and move closer towards full employment.