‘Over half of people in poverty are in working families’

A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds 56% of those in poverty are in working families, with those in places with more low paid, insecure jobs or with high housing costs being worst affected.



Over half  of people [56%] in poverty are in a working family, compared to 39% 20 years ago, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which says that four million children are living in poverty.

The report says working single parents have been swept fastest into poverty, with three in 10 now struggling to stay afloat compared with just two in ten a decade ago. More than half of people in lone parent families in London are in poverty, the highest rate in the UK.

The report says more people are in work but when JRF spoke to lone parents, they talked about “dehumanising” work, feeling trapped “in a never-ending circle” by the benefits system, and being “stuck” in unaffordable or insecure housing.

For families on low pay, it says insecurity is worsened by the cost and availability of transport and childcare, especially in employment sectors such as care, retail and hospitality where a largely female workforce is often required to work evenings and weekends.

The report notes regional differences in poverty rates, with higher rates in London, the North of England, Midlands and Wales, and lowest in the South (excluding London), Scotland and Northern Ireland. It says two major drivers of differences in poverty rates are the availability of good-quality jobs and housing costs.

Disability is another key contributor to poverty. Of the 14 million people currently living in poverty, once extra-cost disability benefits are discounted four million are disabled and a further three million live in a household with someone who has a disability.

Claire Ainsley, Executive Director of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:  “Without a better deal for working families, and a social security system that provides a public service for all of us, the UK faces further division and deeper poverty. That better deal needs to encompass the basics we all need – from building new homes to funding social security and bringing better jobs to all parts of the country”.

The report calls for better quality, less insecure jobs, which offer the opportunity to progress, particularly in part-time jobs, a strengthening of the benefits system to provide a proper safety net and an increase in low-cost housing for families on low incomes and more support for people with high housing costs.

Job prospects

Meanwhile, the number of people placed in permanent jobs in January rose at its quickest monthly rate in a year, according to a report from KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), with workers in the north of England benefiting the most while in London appointments fell.  Temporary placements were down, however,  and growth in salaries for new permanent staff fell to its lowest level since July 2016. A report from the Office for National Statistics covering the third quarter of 2019 found a 0.7 year-on-year decline in British people’s average satisfaction in regard to their personal and economic well-being for the first time since official records began in 2011, with people reporting that they became more pessimistic about their future job prospects.

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