For the first time, there are more people in working families living below the poverty line (6.7 million) than in workless and retired families in poverty combined (6.3 million), having suffered a sustained and ‘unprecedented’ fall in their living standards.
The annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2013, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and written by the New Policy Institute (NPI) reveals today (8 December) that almost 13 million people are living in poverty in the UK. This state-of-the-nation report reveals the scale and depth of hardship, as well as monitoring improvements, across the country.
The report tracks the changes in poverty across a range of indicators. It found people remaining in poverty despite moving in and out of work, with some facing very severe hardship. At the same time the report finds that the support on offer to people who fall on hard times is increasingly threadbare.
The report found that job insecurity is common for millions of people, with one in six of the workforce claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) at some point in the last two years.
There have also been big shifts in terms of which groups are experiencing poverty. The largest group in poverty are working age adults without dependent children - 4.7 million people are in this situation, the highest on record. Pensioner poverty is at its lowest level for 30 years.
The report found:
At the same time, there is a smaller but growing number of people living on incomes below the value of out-of-work benefits in very deep poverty. They are being hit by sanctions, overlapping measures from welfare reform and the falling value of benefits:
Not all of the findings are negative. There has been an improvement in the labour market with falling unemployment and underemployment, and, over the longer term, improvements in health and education outcomes.
Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of JRF, said: “This research shows millions of people are moving in and out of work but rarely out of poverty. Hard work is not working. 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. Recent economic improvements do not outweigh the damage inflicted during the downturn to the incomes of the poorest people across the country.
“Our report demonstrates there has been progress in some areas and the tide has turned on employment, but this not been matched by improvements in wages. We must strengthen our efforts to reduce poverty – it is damaging to the people who experience it and harmful to our economic prospects.”
Peter Kenway, Director at NPI and an author of the report, said: “Poorer members of society are under more pressure than at any time since the birth of the welfare state. The value of the safety net for working age adults is now sinking steadily. The support on offer to people who fall on hard times is increasingly threadbare, with benefit levels on a downward spiral. A strong safety net to catch those who fall is vital for social mobility – millions are saved by it every year even now – yet no leading politician will defend it.”