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Households in arrears

Key points

  • The proportion of households in arrears with their bills is higher in London than in any other English region.
  • The proportion of households in London who are more than £500 in arrears with bills is higher than any other region.
  • Workless households are far more likely to have trouble paying bills than working households.

Households in arrears with bills by region

What does this graph show?

This graph looks at households in arrears with bills. These bills cover all utilities, council tax and rent, but not mortgage repayments.

In 2008, 8% of households in London (around 230,000) were in arrears with their bills, compared to 7% in the North West, the region with the next highest rate, and 5% in the South East, with the lowest rate.

The proportion of households with arrears of less than £500 is no different in London than in the North West, Yorkshire or the East Midlands. But the proportion of households in London who are substantially in arrears (i.e. more than £500) is, at 4%, higher than any other region.

So, although the average unsecured debt in London is no higher than elsewhere in England, here we see that on a far more pressing measure of debt - one which can result in eviction or being cut off from an essential utility - Londoners are at higher risk.

It is important to consider the fact that London has higher housing costs than elsewhere, possibly contributing to the higher value of arrears.

Additional information

In London and elsewhere, workless households are far more likely to have trouble paying bills than working households. Around one in five workless households in London are behind with at least one bill, four times as high as for households where all the adults are in paid work. One in ten workless households are behind with two or more bills. Given, then, the recent increases in unemployment, it follows that more households are now falling behind with their bills.

Data used

ONS Wealth and Assets Survey 2006-08

Indicator last updated: 18 October 2011

Case Study

Case study: Samitha

Samitha is a 25 year-old Bangladeshi mother of three, who came to London at the age of 16. In Bangladesh, I had a happy life. Before I came here, I thought I could learn how to speak English, and I...More…



Some indicators express unemployment as unemployed people as a proportion of all people aged 16 to 64. This differs to the "unemployment rate" which is unemployed people as a proportion of 16 to 64 year olds that are either employed or unemployed (i.e. excluding the economically inactive).


Someone wanting and actively seeking work who is available to start a full-time job straightaway

Workless :

People who are not working but want a job and those people who are officially unemployed make up a group who can be described as 'lacking work but wanting work'. Anyone else of working-age who is not working is therefore 'lacking work but not wanting work'. The total workless population therefore includes those lacking and wanting work as well as those lacking but not wanting work.

Read all glossary definitions