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 418.

    British society used to be based on the class system, it is now,equally depressingly, based on the wealth system. 40 to 50 years of Big Brother type advertising and marketing which is endemic through all strands of media has set the tone and creates the definitions for what people are worth. It pressurises, divides and creates social competition in society. If only I could afford to get out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    404 piroflip. If you think UKIP is the answer then you don't understand the question!

    It's a fine example of turkeys voting for xmas that so many seem to think socialism a dirty word. The most socialist government we ever had was Attlee's... the one that gave us the NHS and nationalised utilities etc. Unless you are really wealthy then socialism is in your best interests!! Yes you "Alf Garnet"

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    The proposed 11% rise for MPs is simply indicative of the widening gap between the "well paid" and everyone else. This could (and should?) be dealt with via the tax system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    People that proclaim that "Socialism is the only solution" clearly have no clue how the world works. I bet those people have all purchased items like an iPad from Apple, and huge American multinational. Capitalism is the way the world works!! Socialism is just a pipe dream in which we all live together in harmony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    In the UK people choose to be disabled. In the UK people choose to have industrial accidents. In the UK people choose to get old. In the UK people choose to be children. Scheming monsters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    A remarkable number of people seem to have fallen for the divisive, demonising lies of this government, that promote the fallacy that people on out of work benefits are better off than those in work. The editor is clearly one of them, though he is supposed to be politically impartial.

    All of those in out of work benefits are among the 13m in poverty. A low waged economy drags working poor in too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    It will all end in a Soylent Green (Sci-Fi film) scenario and it is definitely on the way. Watch the film and tremble in your shoe's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    'The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said low pay and part-time work had prompted an unprecedented fall in living standards'
    But part time MPs with other jobs are not in this category. They make sure of that..

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    The main problem with this is the definition of poverty - people earning less that 60% of the median income.
    This is idiotic - if the median income were 1000 per week, anyone earning less than 600 would be in poverty. Nonsense.
    There are many people in this world living in poverty and statistically, almost none of them live in the UK.
    How about having a real measure like being below minimum wage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    I work but had to use savings to pay the food bills. We do not drink or smoke and went on UK holiday once in 4 years. This is not extravagant but it would be nice to save and go on holiday when one works. I have a horrible feeling when IDS said he wanted people better off in work he meant he would unpick the safety net for those that didn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    You can waffle and do crud assessments until the cows come home passing methane but very stupid people who ran things did something very stupid. They exploded the population of a nation experiencing longevity.

    That is a one time change. A productivity CAP in economics.

    So we fill the country with every idiot that can thumb a ride.

    Population/GDP 15 years ago, compared to now. Silly people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    "Socialism is the only answer."
    That's what Lenin said, didn't work out so well.

    "Neoliberal capitalism is entirely to blame"
    Agreed. It is not Capitalism at all. It is "Crony Capitalism", which is only possible with a state that intervenes in the economy, a requirement of Socialism: which is collectivism manifested in a strong central government/politburo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Appaling to see a good number of comments here dismissing the poverty as "relative" and reminding us just how rich we are. Being kept alive with dim prospects for the future is not rich. Get real !

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    The company I work for recently started interviewing again for apprenticeships, and roughly a third of these guys were in their 30's freshly made redundant and willing to work for 13K pa for 2 years training without a job being promised at the end of it.
    Go into Mcdonalds now the students are outnumbered by mature staff.This isn't short term this is here to stay unless something radical happens

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Did you vote Lib/Lab/Con at the last GE?

    If so,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,DON'T MOAN HERE!!!!!!!!!!!

    You vote the same traitors back in every five years.
    You suffer the consequences.

    All 90% of the sheep like voters of the UK do is swap between the three party criminal gangs.

    You want change?

    Vote UKIP or quit griping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    "320. steveo
    @317 it's not that welfare for most that is to high, not all are scroungers, some are unfortunate in health or loss of job's. the problem you have not addressed is low poor wages"

    ...and there's also poor literacy that stops folks who start on low wages from progressing and improving themselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    380 "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" - Hey SN called anyone "self deluded" today yet? :) Anyway, even the Beeb thinks the Beeb is biased -

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    394. bungle99

    "In the UK people choose to be poor".

    Nah, I'm not buying that. No one can honestly believe that, it doesn't even make any sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    The point is surely that too much "work" is ill-paid & part time - and often largely unskilled. If we don't want to become a low wage sweatshop, we need to have a much higher minimum wage that will encourage businesses to invest in the skills of their workforce instead of treating it as disposable. We have a vicious circle of low wages & low expectations. If we don't break it things will get worse

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    365 bangers 64 "keep banging on" Your words say it all. You aren't interested at getting at the truth, you are interested in trying to support your own views all of the time rather than truth. I make no judgement much of me or you or truth, but I have described what I have found, and I am intelligent enough to cross check to see if it's just me, or a general thing. Many employers are dishonest.


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