Most people classed as being in poverty 'have job'

Woman in a supermarket holding a shopping basket. Researchers said the number of people in low-paid jobs had risen, with average incomes falling by 8% since their peak in 2008

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More working households were living in poverty in the UK last year than non-working ones - for the first time, a charity has reported.

Just over half of the 13 million people in poverty - surviving on less than 60% of the national median (middle) income - were from working families, it said.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said low pay and part-time work had prompted an unprecedented fall in living standards.

But it said the number of pensioners in poverty was at a 30-year low.

Ministers insisted that work remained the best route out of poverty and said the government's welfare reforms would further encourage people to get a job.

'Little security'

The JRF's annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report was written by the New Policy Institute and tracks a range of indicators, including government data and surveys covering income, education and social security.

Start Quote

It's not right that millions of people are going out to work, working harder and harder, and can't afford to bring up their families”

End Quote Rachel Reeves Shadow work and pensions secretary

The poverty measure it defines is based on net household income, adjusted for family size and after housing costs have been deducted.

In the 2011-12 period, the amount of earnings before a household was said to be in poverty was £128 a week for a single adult; £172 for a single parent with one child; £220 for a couple with no children, and £357 for a couple with two children.

Assessing Department for Work and Pensions figures, the report's authors found working adults without dependent children were the most likely group to be living in poverty, and that child poverty was at its lowest level for 25 years.

It said the number of people in low-paid jobs had risen, with average incomes falling by 8% since their peak in 2008.


Get a job has long been the mantra of ministers.

And while work is the best way out poverty, it's no longer a guarantee, it seems.

That the majority of poor people should now be in a job is not wholly surprising - the number of working poor has steadily been rising for years.

In recent years the weak economy has seen an increase in part-time working and often low, stagnating wages, which has exacerbated the problem.

The proportions of poor people have also been affected by the rapidly reducing rates of pensioner poverty.

Private pensions, pension credits and the coalition government's determination to shield pensioners from the cuts that have affected most other groups have all had an effect.

The government will also be heartened by the finding that child poverty is at its lowest level for 25 years.

It also credited private pensions, pension credits and the government's determination to shield retired people from austerity measures for the fact that the number of pensioners living in poverty had fallen to its lowest level in decades.

The JRF report acknowledged that the jobs market this year appeared to be reviving, while the number of jobless young people looked to have peaked.

But it said that while the overall poverty rate in the UK expressed as a proportion of the population was 21% - the second lowest since reliable official statistics began to be collected in the mid-1990s - the figures understated the squeeze there had been on people with low incomes and those affected by benefit changes.

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of JRF, said: "We have a labour market that lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages that are insufficient to make ends meet.

"While a recovery may be gathering momentum in the statistics and official forecasts, for those at the bottom, improving pay and prospects remain a mirage."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said low wages were a "major contributor" to the cost-of-living crisis and a key driver behind a rising benefits bill.

"It's not right that millions of people are going out to work, working harder and harder, and can't afford to bring up their families," she said.

"That's why Labour will strengthen the minimum wage, promote the living wage, and deal with the cost-of-living crisis so we can have a recovery that benefits working people."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "Despite claims to the contrary, work absolutely remains the best route out poverty - children in workless families are around three times more likely to be in poverty than those in working families.

"Our welfare reforms are designed to further increase work incentives and improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the [new benefit system] Universal Credit making three million households better off."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    I don't mind my standard of living falling - that is the way of the world at the moment. I do object to the standard of living for people at the 'bottom of the pile' falling much faster than the standard of living for people at the 'top of the pile'.

    And I object strongly to a tax system that encourages individuals and companies to be 'Tax Efficient' and avoid their social responsibilities,.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Really you try getting a job if you're over 50 or under 25 companys are not intreasted in you and as for retraining its a joke. up to level 2 only which is hopeless if you want better retraining its just not there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Socialism is the only answer. Neoliberal capitalism is entirely to blame for the current situation we are in and it needs to be ended. It looks after the rich only and expects the rest to survive on the crumbs from their table!
    It's a pity there are no socialist parties that have any hope of election victory. The rich and powerful have everyone and everything that could make a difference "bought"

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    The EU have put the European countries in to poverty on purpose and are holding these countries there so they can compete with Asia and the BRICS countries. European countries and especially the UK have some sort of hang-up over people earning a good decent wage. In these countries you have the elite and then you have rest who are having their living standards eroded year by year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    In the UK people choose to be poor. The poor tend not to better themselves as they are in the safety net. Those single mums someone mentioned are just breeding more of the same. Its sad really when the child grows up and finally realizes what the mum has done to them it will be to late. In this day and age with all the opportunities of advancement its just sad to see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    They can't be started up for the same reasons the old ones closed: government stifling enterprise.

    Labour is a capital resource, like materials, premises etc. Markets set wages, not government edicts. Not all wages are meant to support a family, or even life, especially menial entry level unskilled jobs – typically taken up in youth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    @377. thelostdot

    By-by, enjoy life in your ivory tower, I'm of to the pub

    Tomorrow as part of one on my ancillary tasks I will be reporting on some of our junior members of staff. Rest assured, I will be as positive and accurate as I can be, I always am - kind of the opposite of your opinion you in your arrogance attributed to me but then I have the privilege of working in the real world

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Apparently some of those with jobs living in poverty are MPs

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    378.One of the idle poor
    Just now
    @364, firthmj2:
    "I am fed up with seeing single teen mums with manicured nails and chatting on mobile phones paid for with my hard earned taxes."

    What's your solution? Sterilise the poor? Forced abortions?



  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    @376. Daniel - done. Politicians don't need 3 times the average Scottish wage just to make a mess of things! I'd happily make half the mess they do for half the price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Once you start work you have to start paying council tax and paying your rent unlike when your benefits, these 2 things hit you hard along with water electric and gas bills. Putting minimum wage is not the answer since goods just rise in price and more jobs are lost or outsourced.

    Energy/water must be nationalised and a cap on how many houses a landlord can own and rents they can charge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Minimum wage does not cover you to rent a 1 bed flat anywhere. This country is run by the mob, same as America. Expect worse, as Osbilderberg has more to tell us on the Christmas day speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Solution to poverty when working - get on the local council gravy train. A former colleague of mine did after redundancy, and she's doing very nicely for herself, despite being wholly useless at her previous job and no doubt her current job...

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Ironic that the moronic CV fiddling architect of the Universal Credit fiasco lives rent free on the in laws estate - same estate that has received €1.6m in tax payer subsidies from that horrible nasty EU.

    This perfectly encapsulates the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Clown Party and it's utter isolation from the Victorian sub prime employment nightmare it is creating.

    Same old tories...

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    "314. Freetalk
    and their BBC licence fee is being spent on continuous coverage about Mandela's death "

    Don't worry, I've been keeping track and only one 'Mandela' web article has appreared in the 'most read' listings! Even the Rottie puppies was there for a couple of days. No one is interested!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Add this pay rise to the £100k's of Consultancy fees these MPs rake in, it's not surprising that the public have lost all faith in our political system. It used to be an honour to represent your constituents in a democracy! Not now, it's a means to an end to line their own pockets whilst subjecting absolute misery on the people who put them there in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Many of those in work who pay their own rent or mortgage instead of having the government pay it for them, would be rather glad of having £71 a week left over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    MPs are in work and not in poverty so why award them a pay rise? It sends all the wrong messages.

    Its no use having people on benefit who are capable of working and its no use allowing mass immigration to fuel the fire of the low paid.

    Government is not capable, in its present form of solving the crisis that is unfolding in this country but who is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    373.Lightmare If I was you I would not be putting the boot into the BBC over Left Wing Bias. They've let you guys right off the hook this weekend by making sure a certain topic is bereft of a HYS comments section.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    I'm a university graduate and I'm in a minimum wage job. Actually, I do two minimum wage jobs. I'm also a single parent (so no second income to fall back on) and it's nearly Christmas. I do work in the field that I graduated in, but cuts mean I keep reducing my hours to save money. Then I find that the MPs are getting a pay rise equivalent to what I earn a year. I'm absolutely furious.


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