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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    this is ridiculous. nobody in this country is in poverty. we need to abolish the benefits system and force people into work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    The minimum wage is more than enough to live on. It merely isn't enough to support a brand new car, ready meals every day, SKY, an xbox/ps3, iphone with contract and designer clothes.

    People in this country expect to live beyond their means, it is a cultural problem. We have a generation of entitled people blaming the rich and successful for their own stupidity. Dose of reality for Labour voters

  • 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 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 43.

    would love to see their definition of poverty tbf. I know several people who moan they don't have enough money for food yet somehow have enough money for fags and booze.
    If you have a roof over your head can afford to eat and pay for fuel (gas/elec) then you are not in poverty!
    You want to see poverty. Go to central Africa and tell them how bad you have it


Comments 5 of 1098


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.