Autumn Statement: Last chance to ensure recovery does not bypass worst off people and places

Ahead of the Autumn Statement tomorrow (Wednesday 03 December), Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said:

Despite near record-high employment, there now seem to be fewer escape routes for the majority of people in poverty. The Autumn Statement is the final chance for the Government to show that it is serious about bringing down the huge bills associated with poverty by tackling its main causes. These are in-work and out-of-work benefits that are worth less with every passing year, the high costs of housing and other essentials, and an economy with a bigger share of low paid, low skilled jobs than any of our major competitors.

“We’d like to see action to ensure the economy recovery does not bypass the worst off people and places. George Osborne should use his Autumn Statement to ensure low income families keep more of what they earn by increasing the Work Allowance (the amount households on in-work benefits can keep before support is withdrawn) alongside any tax cuts. The soaring cost of housing is also forcing more families below the poverty line, so we’d like to see this high cost brought down by more Government support for truly affordable homes.”

Last week, JRF published its state of the nation report, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion. This is the most up-to-date and comprehensive guide to the state of the nation ahead of the General Election in 2015 – the definitive story of how the UK’s economic recovery is affecting people in poverty. The report found:

  • Unemployment fell by 300,000 last year and the number unemployed for over a year fell for the first time in a decade.
  • The number of people working part time but wanting a full-time job also fell, by 50,000, also the first fall in ten years.
  • The employment rate is at its near historic high and more woman are in employment than ever before.
  • Two thirds of people who moved from unemployment into work in the last year are paid below the Living Wage
  • The long term prospects for people in low paid work are not good: only a fifth of low paid employees have left low paid work completely 10 years later. 
  • The average self-employed person earns 13% less than they did five years ago.
  • There are around 1.4m contracts not guaranteeing a minimum number of hours, and over half are in the lower-paying food, accommodation, retail and admin sectors.
  • Incomes are lower on average than a decade ago and the worst off have seen the biggest falls – nearly 10% lower than a decade ago.
  • Average wages for men working full time (in real terms) have dropped from £13.90 to £12.90 per hour between 2008 and 2013.
  • For the lowest paid quarter of men, hourly pay fell by 70p per hour; for women, 40p per hour.