The “economically inactive” is a rather ghastly blanket expression used to describe nearly nine million people in Britain. It’s also a highly misleading one because the term covers such a wide panoply of individuals including full-time carers, students, the retired as well those who don’t need to work for a living.

It also covers those who are considered long-term unwell, the biggest category. What’s more, the expression “economically inactive” comes across as rather glib, implying that many of these individuals are shirkers or drop-outs who simply don’t want to work. But that’s not what the evidence suggests.

Precise figures of how the nine million people out of work break down are hard to come by. But estimates suggest that 2.5 million are students, about 2 million are full-time carers and around 2.5 million are now classified as long-term sick with varying degrees of illness.