10 facts you need to know before the general election

26th Feb 2015

Top ten facts about incomes, work, housing and poverty in the UK, from recent research - blog by Claire Ainsley

As we approach one of the most unpredictable general elections in recent history, one thing is certain. The facts behind the policy statements will be in dispute – and the public know it. This week’s NatCen poll for the UK Statistics Authority shows that while the public do trust official statistics, they just don’t trust the media or politicians to present them honestly.

JRF is offering evidence-based research and policy analysis to journalists and commentators, via our new General Election 2015 hub. To start off, here are our top ten facts about incomes, work, housing and poverty in the UK, from recent research.

  • Overall poverty levels have stayed fairly flat for the last 25 years. But IFS research for JRF predicts that poverty will rise to one in three children and nearly one in four working-age adults by 2020.
  • Relative income poverty in the UK has fallen since 2008/09. But so-called absolute income poverty has got worse, in part because incomes have decreased overall while social security has provided some protection for people in poverty. If the poverty threshold had stayed the same as in 2007/08, 3 million more people would be in poverty.
  • Pensioner poverty is now at a record low level. From having a greater risk of poverty than the rest of the population in the 1980s, pensioners now have the lowest poverty of any age group.
  • Those on low pay are not just at the start of their careers. One in three low-paid workers are in the prime of their working lives (aged 31–50) and only a fifth of low-paid workers have escaped low pay ten years later.
  • The poorest households spend a much larger share of their income on housing costs than the wealthiest. The share is highest for low-income private renters. In 2012/13, the worst-off fifth of people spent more than a quarter of their income on housing, three times as much as the richest fifth. The middle fifth spent 16 per cent.

During the months running up to the general election, JRF has commissioned Full Fact, the independent fact-checking organisation, to monitor and analyse public debate about poverty. The results will be published in the summer.

Journalists wanting experts on incomes, work, housing, poverty, social care and more can contact the JRF Media Centre.