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UK Poverty 2017 – Joseph Rowntree Foundation

January 23, 2018

JRF 1EMPLOYMENT levels are at a record high; so the UK must now reshape its labour market to deliver even greater reductions in poverty than those seen over the past 20 years, a report published earlier this month from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says. It warns that the country is at a “turning point” where progress on tackling poverty is going into reverse.

The report, notes that in the past 20 years the UK has “dramatically reduced” poverty among people who had traditionally been most at risk: pensioners, and families with a lone parent or three or more children. The falls were achieved, it says, by higher employment rates (accompanied by rising skills levels and the introduction and raising of the National Minimum Wage), more generous support for families through tax credits, and extra help for poorer pensioners. But poverty rates rose last year, to 16 per cent of pensioners (from 13 per cent in 2011), and 30 per cent for children (from 27 per cent).

The figures suggest that the UK is “at a turning point in our fight against poverty”, the chief executive of the JRF, Campbell Robb, said. “Record employment is not leading to lower poverty; changes to benefits and tax credits are reducing incomes; and crippling costs are squeezing budgets to breaking point.”

Part-time work is also a problem – irt doesn’t pay as much as fulltime.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said that he was “deeply concerned” by the findings, and reiterated his call on the Government to ensure that Universal Credit would “make work pay and reduce poverty”

The JRF uses a relative definition of poverty: household income which is less than 60 per cent less than the median, adjusted for household size and type. It says that just seven per cent of people were in “persistent” poverty (lasting for at least two of the preceding three years) in 2015.

Its analysis highlights the degree to which work gives “strong protection against poverty”, as long as it is full-time or, for couples, one full-time and one part-time worker. Overall, 30 per cent of children live in poverty, but this rises to 72 per cent of those in workless households, and falls to just five per cent of those in households where both adults work full-time.

Although many lone parents now work, the report says, “recent changes to benefits and tax credits have meant that this is providing less and less protection from poverty”. Forty-seven per cent of children in lone-parent families are in poverty, falling to 28 per cent if the parent is in full-time work, and 36 per cent if the parent is in part-time work.

“The question facing the UK is how to shape a labour market that will deliver even greater reductions in poverty, particularly given that the UK already has historically high employment and a rising minimum wage,” the report says. “Many of those who are now out of work are disabled or have health conditions, have young children, or are caring for disabled adults. This makes it far harder for them to find and sustain work, and more likely that when they do get work it is low-paid and part-time.” It highlights a “jobs gap” affecting 17 per-cent of people (about 7.6 million in total), who cannot get work, or as much work as they would like.

Among the successes noted is the fall in the proportion of working-age people with no qualifications: from 20 per cent to eight per cent in the 20 years to 2016. “Education and skills are the biggest factors predicting whether individuals are likely to experience poverty,” the authors write. But they note that the gap in attainment between students from richer and poorer backgrounds “remains stubbornly large”, and that qualifications are “far less effective in improving pay prospects for people working part-time”. Low pay “remains endemic” in the UK, it says, and three out of four low-paid workers are still low-paid after ten years.

Among the recommendations are an improvement in education and skills, and working with employers to create “more and better jobs where they are needed, and to offer more opportunities and better pay to people who currently struggle to enter and gain from work — particularly disabled people, those caring for adults or children, and part-time workers”.

Its analysis highlights the degree to which work gives “strong protection against poverty”, as long as it is full-time or, for couples, one full-time and one part-time worker. Overall, 30 per cent of children live in poverty, but this rises to 72 per cent of those in workless households, and falls to just five per cent of those in households where both adults work full-time.

Although many lone parents now work, the report says, “recent changes to benefits and tax credits have meant that this is providing less and less protection from poverty”. Forty-seven per cent of children in lone-parent families are in poverty, falling to 28 per cent if the parent is in full-time work, and 36 per cent if the parent is in part-time work.

“The question facing the UK is how to shape a labour market that will deliver even greater reductions in poverty, particularly given that the UK already has historically high employment and a rising minimum wage,” the report says. “Many of those who are now out of work are disabled or have health conditions, have young children, or are caring for disabled adults. This makes it far harder for them to find and sustain work, and more likely that when they do get work it is low-paid and part-time.” It highlights a “jobs gap” affecting 17 per-cent of people (about 7.6 million in total), who cannot get work, or as much work as they would like.

Among the successes noted is the fall in the proportion of working-age people with no qualifications: from 20 per cent to eight per cent in the 20 years to 2016. “Education and skills are the biggest factors predicting whether individuals are likely to experience poverty,” the authors write. But they note that the gap in attainment between students from richer and poorer backgrounds “remains stubbornly large”, and that qualifications are “far less effective in improving pay prospects for people working part-time”. Low pay “remains endemic” in the UK, it says, and three out of four low-paid workers are still low-paid after ten years.

Among the recommendations are an improvement in education and skills, and working with employers to create “more and better jobs where they are needed, and to offer more opportunities and better pay to people who currently struggle to enter and gain from work — particularly disabled people, those caring for adults or children, and part-time workers”.

JRF 2Solving poverty in the UK will require urgent action in five areas:

  1. Reform of Universal Credit so people keep more of what they earn and a lifting ofthe working-age benefits freeze so incomes keep up with prices.
  1. Reduce the cost of living, particularly housing, for those on low incomes.
  2. Improve education and skills, especially among children from low-income backgrounds and adults in low-paid work.
  1. Work with employers and business to create more and better jobs where they are needed, and to offer more opportunities and better pay to people who currently struggle to enter and gain from work – particularly disabled people, those caring for adults or children, and part-time workers.
  1. Work with communities and service providers to improve health, family relationships and social support to reduce the damage done by poverty and improve prospects.

You can download it from here

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