Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Yes, five million are on out-of-work benefits. Here’s the proof

How can 20 per cent of people in our great cities be on benefits at a time of mass migration and record vacancies? It’s perhaps the most important question in politics right now, but it’s not being given any scrutiny because the real figures lie behind a fog of data. But the fog is easily cleared, if you know where to look. What follows is for anyone with an interest in doing so, and it follows a few queries to The Spectator about how we found the five-million figure we’ve been using for a while.

To solve a problem, you need to recognise a problem

Every month, an official unemployment figure is put out on a press release – and news organisations are primed to cover it. It’s normally about 1.2 million looking for work: the problem, of course, is so few Brits are actually doing so. But the Conservatives have glossed over this point and had (pre-Sunak) taken to boasting that unemployment is at a 40-year low. In his last speech outside No10, Boris Johnson laid it on thick and said dole queues were shorter than any time since he was ‘on a space hopper’; Liz Truss made a similar boast as PM. But Rishi Sunak has not. There’s a decent chance that he will end the shameful cover-up and talk plainly about this huge issue.

The true benefits figure is not to be found on a press release, but buried in a password-protected DWP database with a six-month time lag. I don’t think the Tories intended to bury the bad news, but that is the effect of the rejig of their database. At The Spectator we have been tracking this measure since we were lambasting Labour for keeping five million on benefits during the boom. Here’s what it looks like…

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