Poverty doubles over 30 years in UK

The percentage of households in the UK who are below society’s minimum standard of living has increased from 14% to 33% over the last 30 years, according to a new study of poverty and deprivation.

The percentage of households in the UK who are below society’s minimum standard of living has increased from 14% to 33% over the last 30 years, according to a new study of poverty and deprivation.

Most children in poor families have at least one parent who is in work, which contradicts claims that a job is automatically the route out of poverty. It also shows that 17% of employed adults are poor.

The new study, part of The Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project, shows that 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing, one in three people cannot afford to heat their homes properly in winter and 5.5 million adults don’t have essential clothing.

The doubling in the number of people who live below the minimum standard of living has come over a time period in which the size of the British economy has also doubled.

The study is more evidence for the argument that British workers are subject to a low pay and insecure economy. For millions of workers pay has stagnated whilst the cost of living has risen. It is no longer the case that employment is simply enough to move people from poverty to a minimum standard of living. The idea that poverty would decrease as the economy grew has not happened, according to the study.

Nearly half the people who are in work, but are poor, work as many as 40 hours or more a week. 35% of adults who are employed are in what is called ‘exclusionary work’, which means that they are in poverty, in low quality work and/or have been unemployed for extended periods in the last five years.

The study suggests that although unemployment is still a  major cause of poverty, the government is not doing enough to deal with the problem of poverty in work.

Nick Bailey, from the University of Glasgow, said:

“The UK government continues to ignore the working poor ; they do not have adequate policies to address this growing problem.”

Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, said:

“The Coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed. The available high quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.”

The study describes how many households are struggling to make ends meet and adults are cutting back on their own food so other family members can eat. As many as 28% of adults have eaten less for financial reasons, but over half a million children aren’t getting enough food.

Professor Jonathan Bradsh aw, from the University of York, said:

“The research has shown that in many households parents sacrifice their own welfare – going without adequate food, clothing or a social life – in order to try to protect their children from poverty and deprivation.”

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