Working-age poverty

People in workless households have a much higher rate of poverty than those with someone in work. 

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The group with the highest risk of poverty throughout the last two decades are lone parents. Although they still have the highest poverty rates, this group has seen the greatest decreases in poverty. In 1994/95, 58% lived in poverty, before falling significantly to a low of 41% in 2010/11. This has started to rise again in recent years – reaching 46% in 2015/16 before falling again to 43% in 2017/18. Couples without children have always had the lowest poverty rates at 12% and these have hardly changed in 20 years. Couples with children have the next lowest poverty rates, which have also stayed fairly steady between rates of 19% in 2004/05 and 22% in 1994/95, 2015/16 and 2016/17. Among single people without children 24% were in poverty in 1994/95, rising to a high of 27% in 2009/10 and falling back to 24% in 2017/18.

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In 2017/18, 49% of working-age adults in workless families were in poverty, compared with 15% of those in working families. One of the UK’s successes over the last 20 years has been a large drop in the proportion of people living in workless families and a big rise in employment rates, particularly since 2011. People who live in workless households have much higher rates of poverty than those who live in households where at least one person is in work.

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Poverty rates for working-age adults with social landlords (45%) and private landlords (31%) are higher than the poverty rate for those who own their home outright (13%) by 32 and 18 percentage points respectively. Poverty rates for those buying with a mortgage are a further four percentage points lower than outright home-owners at 9%.

Poverty rates for all tenures have been consistent for 22 years, apart from a ten percentage point drop in poverty for those with private landlords between 1994/95 and 2017/18. Since 1994/95 home-owners poverty rates have changed no more than two percentage points and social renters has remained between 35% and 40%.

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In the past 20 years, working-age adults in White ethnic households have always had the lowest risk of poverty, with those from Indian households having the second lowest. Those in Bangladeshi and Pakistani households have continuously had the highest and second highest poverty rates respectively, with people in the Black and ‘Chinese and Other’ households having similar rates.

The proportions of working age people from Bangladeshi, Pakistani & Indian backgrounds who were in poverty by 2015/18 were, respectively, 34, 17 and 10 percentage points lower than in 1994/96. 40% of working age adults in Black households were in poverty in 2015/18 and this has fluctuated between 34% and 40% since 1994/96.