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Cost of living

A Minimum Income Standard for the UK in 2022

Our annual update of the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) sets out the living standards we, as a society, agree everyone in the UK should be able to have.

Written by:
Abigail Davis, Juliet Stone, Chloe Blackwell, Matt Padley, Claire Shepherd and Donald Hirsch
Date published:

In 2022, the rising cost of living presents the most significant challenge to living standards for many years, and comes after a period of social and economic uncertainty resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a growing gap between what people have and what people need for a decent standard of living.

Millions of people in the UK risk falling well short of this standard as costs continue to rise and our social security system fails to provide adequate and appropriate support. Short-term support measures are vital now, but will only go so far; we need a social security system that is fit for today.

Key points and recommendations

  • In 2022, we have recalculated from scratch the minimum budgets for pensioner and working-age households without children, and reviewed and uprated the budgets for households with children.
  • The research this year was undertaken at a time of uncertainty and flux. It spanned a period in which the UK was emerging from prolonged periods of Covid-19 restrictions, with the resulting ‘freedoms’ this afforded, and in which the cost of living began to increase at the fastest rate for many years. We have yet to understand the full impacts of these factors on MIS.
  • A single person needs to earn £25,500 a year to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living in April 2022. A couple with two children needs to earn £43,400 between them.
  • The increase in what is needed for a minimum living standard over the past year is in part a consequence of the rapidly rising cost of many goods and services, such as domestic fuel, which have substantially increased what is required to reach MIS.
  • Part of the increase is also due to changes in the specification of what is needed for a minimum living standard. The budgets reflect changes in society and emphasise the crucial importance – across all age groups – of activities outside the home for social participation, which cost more than before.
  • The cost of living support payments aimed at supporting households likely to be most affected by rising costs is welcome, but it does not solve more entrenched problems within the social security system. Even with the cost-of-living support payments, a couple with two children, on out of work benefits, only have just over half (52%) of what they need for a minimum standard of living.
  • Working households can get closer to reaching MIS, but the support payments do little to address the cost-of-living challenge. A couple with two children and one parent working full-time on the National Living Wage, the other not working, reach 76% of MIS without the cost-of-living support payments; the same family only reach 79% of MIS with the payments.

Use our updated Minimum Income Calculator to work out whether you earn enough for an acceptable standard of living.