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 1098.

    I hope people would stick together through this, and whatever the outcome would be to agree, so we could make a change. But, i fear the media has worked it's magic and split us so far apart, when we are put into suicide booths you will not utter a word. When war comes, it is the gritty lads that do the work, not pencil pushing politicians. Count us out of the next skirmish, too weak to defend you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    This does not say that the poor are better off than the rich, for all you right wind smarties who always 2 and 2 together and make 5. If 4000 people on benefits get 4k and 6000 people in work get 6k then there are more in work in poverty but LOOK! amazing! The poor are not getting more than the rich. No wonder the country is going down the pan with some people encouraged to be paranoid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    We are not in poverty, just because some get much more. Ludicrous 'relative' concept' no one respects. I have never earnt much, the solution is simple, spend less! Or waste your life slaving to keep up with the Jonses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.


    "Finally, work is not the best way out of poverty; it's the only way."

    Strange, how did the banksters manage to claim poverty then and get away with £1.3 trillion, so far. Unless you class bribery, corruption, fraud, interest rate rigging, drug cartel money laundering, PPI and loan rate mis-selling etc.. as work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    Here we go again, hate the poor, sick, needy, elderly.

    This is how Hitler started.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    More old rubbish abou the poor are living a life of luxury. they aren't, it's your personality. You put 2 and 2 together make 5 and the grass is greener. Only it's not very nice. If it's so great being poor why don't you want to be poor? Pure hypocrisy. I had many bright working class fiends who have left (emigrated). I have a disability so can't. Stinking country that persecutes the poor though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    £357p/w for a family of two excluding housing costs is the poverty line??? What planet are these people on?. £28,000 p/a lol only in London would anyone think the rest of the country earn that sort of dosh. Most family's exists on much less and are not aware there poor . I am 64 worked 49 years and have never been within 50% of the stated national average and I'm a skilled worker. Get real

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    @7. Poverty?? Is defined as what?
    I have worked amongst these families for years, they all have mobile phones and by that I mean 3 or 4 mobiles in the household.

    Wow! 3 mobile phones. No wonder we have an economic slump, while our poor FTSE CEOs are struggling to get by on £4 million a year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    Overall, the UK living standard is going down to loo for sure

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    When I worked in a petrol station, I got £6.40 an hour and did 33 hours a week. I got a top-up of £12 tax credit. I paid out, £65 on rent, £20 council tax a week. Then, in the Winter, in my all electric council flat, I spent £65 on electricity. So, out of £210 a week, I was left with £60. Out of that, I had food, clothing, getting to work. Not much, for standing 8 hours a day, at 55 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    I am not denying the difficult circumstances many people are in, but there needs to be a change to our definition of poverty. Currently the definition is if you earn less than 60% of median income. Thus by definition it's practically impossible to eliminate (unless everyone is exactly equal). We need an ABSOLUTE definition, based on what is needed to live with dignity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    Wealth & poverty reflect & induce corruption

    'Our' global crisis made 2-3 years productivity-loss inevitable, wealth discovered less, output devalued, distributed income necessarily to be cut or devalued.

    Crisis AND cause of crisis SHOULD have been addressed together, agreeing equal partnership: gentle 'austerity' for rich, poor made secure, aggregate demand stable, ALL lifted out of corruption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    I think this is the most biased piece of writing/reporting I've seen lately. Just enough to inflame readers. Next many people won't have xmas dinner and forgetting to mention, they are of other faiths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    This isn't news...
    Most people in this country can't afford to educate their children without going to the state for help and most people can't afford to see a doctor with doing the same. Many can't house themselves in spite of having an income. The welfare state is proving to be very expensive for the poor. We should find a better way of paying for all this largess without fleecing the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    Time the big 3 got the boot, Non of them are capable of running the country and I really will be concerned come election time. We have allowed this kind of politics to go on too long and those at the bottom always pay. Make the partys listen by voting for whats right and not just some hype and spin so were duped as usual whoever wins.

    Little guys pay tax and multinationals dodge it, so fair..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    £357/wk excluding housing costs is the poverty line for a 2 child family and lets say housing costs are £800/mth this gives a poverty line of £28000/year after tax doesn't it?

    Perhaps things aren't so bad then; it seems I've spent half my adult life on poverty and didn't even know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    This is apparent to all but those in Westminster but no one wants to give the whole picture,that is the way we are stitched up over prices.We pay far too much for most essentuals including food.Most other countries like ours have VAT on food as well as childrens clothes and they are still not more expensive than ours.Realistic prices would help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    We should expect statistics to show a temporary decline in living standards as the benefit claimants rejoining the workforce learn skills necessary to command a higher quality of life.

    This report could be interpreted as a successful end to the benefit culture, rather than negative prospects for low-paid workers.

    Finally, work is not the best way out of poverty; it's the only way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    This is the real effect of "austerity" described by Govt. Nothing to do with balancing the books, really about robbing working ppl of the ability to lift ourselves out of a trap into something better, aspiration. We don't make anything anymore, so no point aspiring. The UK really is a slave nation of ppl with no hope. Govt should be deeply ashamed, remember this at the ballot box.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    @1072 Ruth4JC

    I think if the South ( I assume you mean London and Home Counties) were given a 24k tax threshold,you might get a rebellion from us up North,and rightly so.A better idea would be to start bringing London in line with the rest of the country and tackle its ridiculous rents and house prices


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