In 2020/21, around one in five people in the UK (20%) were in poverty – 13.4 million people. Of these, 7.9 million were working-age adults, 3.9 million were children and 1.7 million were pensioners. Therefore, one in four children in the UK are living in poverty (27%).
The number and proportion of children, working-age adults and pensioners in poverty all fell between 2019/20 and 2020/21. The biggest fall was recorded in the proportion of children in poverty (down 4 percentage points to a still far too high 27%) and of pensioners in poverty (down 3 percentage points to 15%). This is likely due to a falling average income causing the relative poverty line to fall, at the same time as a range of temporary coronavirus-related support was introduced.
Throughout the last 25 years, children have consistently had the highest poverty rates. Twenty-five years ago, a third of children lived in poverty. This fell to 28% by 2004/05 and reached its lowest level of 27% between 2010/11 and 2013/14. After this period, child poverty rose, reaching 31% in 2019/20 before falling back to 27% in 2020/21.
The pensioner poverty rate fell dramatically from 28%–29% in the mid to late 1990s to 13% in 2012/13. This was driven by increasing income from private pensions and increases in benefits. Since then, it has edged up reaching 18% in 2019/20, before the reduction to 15% in the latest data.
The data presented here is from our 2023 UK Poverty report, setting out the trends and impacts of poverty across the UK. Read the full report UK Poverty 2023.