The next generation is being condemned to a worse set of circumstances in which to live, work and raise a family

New research published today (November 23rd) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) signals a stark warning that the next generation is facing worse life chances than their parents. Providing the definitive picture of poverty in the UK, JRF’s annual state of the nation report Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report written by the New Policy Institute (NPI) shows that there are now more people aged 16-24 living in poverty than those aged over 65 - 400,000 more than a decade ago.

Young people are also four times more likely to be unemployed: 16% of under 25s are unemployed, compared to 4% of the working age population as whole. Overall, the same number of people, 13 million, are living in poverty after housing costs as a decade ago.

Launched by JRF’s Chief Executive Julia Unwin at a special event in London this morning, the report reveals fundamental shifts in the causes of poverty and in which groups are at greatest risk. It also highlights that a lack of well-paid jobs, genuinely affordable homes and opportunities to get on at work or in education is making it harder for people to build a secure future.

The report finds that:

  • There are 1.7 million people aged 16-24 in poverty, 400,000 more than a decade ago.
  • There are 1.4 million people aged over 65 in poverty, 600,000 less than ten years ago. The over 65s are the only age group to see a fall in the number of people in poverty over the last decade.
  • There are 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK today, the same number as ten years ago.
  • The proportion of households with no working adult is now at its lowest level since comparable records began, with 16 per cent of working-age households having no adult in work.
  • For people of any age group, finding a job is not a reliable route out of poverty, as more than half (51 per cent) of those below the poverty line live in a household with at least one adult in work.
  • The number of children in poverty living in the private rented sector has doubled in the last decade and now stands at 1.3m.
  • A third of children on free school meals achieved five good GCSEs, compared to two thirds of all children.
  • There are now 53,000 homeless households in the UK, 13,000 more than five years ago. This growth is due to families being unable to find a suitable new home when they reach the end of their tenancies in the private rented sector.
  • The proportion of people living in poverty who live in the private rented sector (PRS) has nearly doubled over the last 10 years to 4.2 million. The numbers living in other sectors have fallen, to 4.4 million in the socially rented sector and 4.1 million owner occupiers.

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The next generation is being condemned to a worse set of circumstances in which to live, work and raise a family. This year’s report reveals that a large proportion of young people are being locked out of the opportunities they need to build a secure future - a secure home, a job that pays the bills and the chance to get on in life.

“A welcome fall in the number of pensioners living in poverty, thanks partly to direct action from the Government, shows that this is a problem which can be solved. We need to see the same commitment to tackling the drivers of poverty among younger people, including low pay, unaffordable housing and difficulties entering into and progressing at work. There is an important role for businesses, employers, and local leaders, who must to work together if we are to eradicate poverty once and for all.”

Tom MacInnes, co-author of the report said “The report shows some good news – unemployment has fallen, as has underemployment. The proportion of people in workless households is the lowest for at least 20 years. But while the labour market has been strong, the housing market is an increasing source of problems – rising homelessness, rising evictions, increasing numbers of families housed in temporary accommodation.

Most of these problems emanate from the private rented sector, where a growing number of people in poverty, including over 1 million children, now live. This is the sharp end of the housing crisis. Increasing the supply of secure, affordable homes across all tenures, is essential to eliminating poverty in the UK”.

To reduce poverty sustainably and over the long term, JRF calls for action:

  • to tackle the education gap and make sure that children living in poverty have the same life chances as their better off peers, for example by getting the best teachers into more deprived schools
  • to make sure that the strong growth in employment translates into well-paid jobs with opportunities for progression in all parts of the UK and that the National Minimum Wage for under 25s keeps pace with rises in the National Living Wage
  • to increase the number of genuinely affordable homes and strengthen rights for people living in the private rented sector
  • to help unemployed people into better paid and sustainable jobs through financial and career support