Unreported: pensioner poverty falls by 900,000

New figures show that there are 900,000 fewer pensioners in poverty than 10 years ago. But the mainstream media have largely reported this as 2 million in poverty.

New figures out this morning from the ONS show that the number of pensioners living in poverty has fallen by 900,000 over the last decade. But egged on by the ONS, the mainstream media have largely reported this as a snapshot rather than looking at the progress that has been made.

The ONS press release titled, “Two million pensioners in poverty in 2007/08” outlines that:

“In 2007/08, an estimated 2 million pensioners in the UK were living in poverty according to the most commonly used official measure, says a new chapter of Pension Trends published today by the Office for National Statistics. The number of pensioners in poverty has declined over the last decade, from 2.9 million in 1998/99.”

This graph shows how the number of pensioners living in poverty has fallen. Chapter 13 of the accompanying Pension Trends report says:

“In 1994/95, 28 per cent of pensioners fell below the 60 per cent threshold; by 2007/08 this had fallen to 18 per cent.”

Few news outlets have yet reported the figures and most have adopted the ONS’ headline. They only mention the improvement over the last decade in the text of the article. For example:

Daily Mail: Two million pensioners are living in poverty – with half unable to afford heating

Guardian: 2m pensioners in poverty, says ONS

Press Association: Two million pensioners in poverty

Three cheers for balance to the BBC who go with “Pensioner poverty ‘drops by a third’.”

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14 Responses to “Unreported: pensioner poverty falls by 900,000”

  1. Anon E Mouse

    Will – From personal experience (I know several pensioners) I think this is an accurate report.

    Nice to see the Labour Party acting in someone else’s interests and not their own. Good.

  2. Balham Bugle

    The Pension Trend report also adds (in next sentence, you didn’t think of adding Will): “There has been little change in the proportion of pensioner households falling below the 50 per cent of contemporary median income threshold since 1994/95.” Effectively there has been no improvement in the condition of the more needy pensioner, only a improvement in those who are close to the “poverty line”.

    PS – Look forward to your appraisal of the National Equality Panel’s report.

  3. Silent Hunter

    Thanks to Balham Bugle for pointing out Will’s “uncharacteristic” oversight of the ‘actualite’ LOL

    Talking of evading the truth – I expect it might be a bit awkward to point out that YOUR DAD has been proven to be very “economic with the actualite” himself.

    Chip off the old block then.

  4. David Jones

    Well, the text says “little change since 1994” but the graph shows a drop from around 12-13% in 1997 to 10% in 2008, which is a drop of almost a quarter – not good enough, but unworthy of your crowing.

  5. Mark

    Good news but as Balham Bugle hints, there’s been a lot of effort to massage the numbers by targeting the marginal poverty cases. This isn’t progressive, it’s jooking the numbers.

    It’s the hard to reach pensioners in deep poverty I worry about.

  6. Fony Blair

    I would imagine the 900,000 decrease is down mostly to 13 years of pensioner deaths and relative poverty decreasing for those enterijng retirement rather than any wonderful policy by Labour.

    Thee is only one way to reduce poverty for pensioners and that is to give them money. Labourt haven’t! Don;t talk about % increases the actual money provided is basically peanuts.

    In all honesty though these figures should be used to encourage people to save for their own retirement rather than relying on the state.

    Oh what was that…..Labour have decided to remove tax relief to high earners….the very same people who make decisions about pensions in organisations. I’m sure they will be really motivated to set up company pension schemes to encourage people to save.

    Socialism rocks!!!

  7. Charlotte MacKenzie

    Pensioner poverty falls by 900,000 http://bit.ly/agEgiX

  8. The Free Market

    #CFP #SKP Unreported: pensioner poverty falls by a third | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/9qfoyE

  9. Vladimir Klimko

    #CFP #SKP Unreported: pensioner poverty falls by a third | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/9qfoyE http://frostfires.com/notice/288642

  10. Will Straw

    David – Thanks for pointing that out to Balham and Silent. I reprinted the graph to show all the different lines but focused on 60% since that is the accepted definition of the poverty line.

    Mark – I agree that the hard to reach are a problem but lifting 900,000 pensioners out of poverty is no small achievement. For those interested, Chapter 11 of Pension Trends has lots of information about how incomes have risen since the 1990s which show that this is not just a statistical oddity.

    Fony – Short memory. The Minimum Income Guarantee (introduced in 1999 and replaced in 2003 by the Pension Credit) has made a huge difference as has the winter fuel payment. Tax relief for high earners? That was clearly helping poor pensioners wasn’t it. Socialism rocks? Correct.

  11. Further Reading | Westminster Blog | FT.com

    […] Pensioner poverty has fallen by nearly a million under Labour, says the ONS […]

  12. Fony Blair

    Will – Labour may well have introduced all those measures….I’m sure they did. But if there are still c.2M in poverty then according to Labour doctrine of all people being equal something isn’t right is it!? 12 years to resolve it and yet nothing done other than raiding private pensions.

    My point on higher tax relief is that those in that tax bracket are key descision makers re: setting up or maintianing company pensions. If there is no reason for those people to save into a pension (and with no tax relief what is the point? You may as well save in an investment vehicle where you have complete control) why would they continue to support them and to give company contributions etc.

  13. Andrew Roche

    Unreported: pensioner poverty falls by 900,000 http://ff.im/-f2zal

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