Work doesn’t pay in Tory Britain as in-work poverty hits record high

Half of those in poverty live in working households - including 2.6 million children


More than half of Brits living in poverty are in working households, according to a new report out today – a record high for in-work poverty.

Research by the New Policy Institute for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals 55 per cent of the 13.5 million people in poverty live in working households, including 2.6 million children.

One in every eight workers, or 3.8 million people, are now living in poverty, the report finds, with the number of workers in poverty up 1.1 million since 2010/11.

Helen Barnard, Head of Analysis at Joseph Rowntree, said:

“The UK economy is not working for low-income families. The economy has been growing since 2010 but during this time high rents, low wages and cuts to working-age benefits mean that many families, including working households, have actually seen their risk of poverty grow.”

Today’s report blamed the housing crisis for the growth of in-work poverty. Three quarters (73 per cent) of people on low incomes living in the private sector pay over a third of their income on rent.

This compares with less than a third (28 per cent) of owner-occupiers and half (50 per cent) of social renters with similar incomes.

Private rentals have doubled in the last ten years, from 2.2 million in 2004/5 to 4.5 million today.

Children and disabled people are among the worst hit, with half of children in rented homes (46 per cent in private rentals and 52 per cent in social rentals) living in poverty, and half of all those in poverty either disabled or living with a disabled person.

Dr Peter Kenway, director of the New Policy Institute, said:

“An adult in poverty today is much more likely to be young, working and a tenant living the private rented sector than 15 years ago. But modern poverty is also increasingly linked with disability.”

Evictions have also shot up since 2010, from 23,000 in 2010/11 to 37,000 in 2015/16.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, commenting on the report, said:

“A fair day’s work should mean a fair day’s pay. But wages are simply too low, and millions are struggling to afford the basics, even when they’re working hard.

After the financial crisis, UK wages fell further than in any other developed country except Greece. It’s time for employers to give their staff fair pay and decent hours, while the government should lift the public sector pay cap and invest in our economy.”

O’Grady advised workers to join a union so they can negotiate better pay, noting private sector union members earn eight per cent more on average.

A government spokesperson said:

“Since 2010, the number of people living in poverty has fallen by 300,000 but we know there’s more to do.

We’re increasing the National Living Wage and taking millions of people out of income tax, to make sure it always pays to be in work.”

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

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