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Employment not a bar to poverty in UK

  • 15/02/2016
  • Author:MartinKitara

More people are living on low incomes than during the recession despite an increase in employment


2.6 million (60%) households in the UK are still struggling to make ends meet despite having at least one adult in employment, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Despite improvements in the standards of living, there are still many more people living on low incomes than in 2008. For families, more work and better pay has not hindered them from falling below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) – the amount the public say is needed for an acceptable standard of living.

The thresholds are £16,850 for a single person, £25,600 for a lone parent with one child and £36,060 for a single breadwinner with two children.


41% of lone working parents still have incomes below what is required for adequate living standards. For couples where both work, the risk of having a low income has risen from 5 to 12 percent in  2013//14. For single breadwinner families, the risk of having a low income has risen from 38% in 2008/9 to 51% in 2013/14.

The report found that households with children became more likely to work full time in 2013/14 and their employment rates were higher than before the recession. However, changes to tax credits, lower real wages and high costs meant that the risk of working families being below MIS also increased. Work has become a less sure route to adequate income.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The report also shows that growing employment and a return to growth in the economy slowed the increases in the number of people falling short of a decent standard of living. Last year, there was a less than one percent increase in the risk of having an income below MIS - a much smaller rise than previous years.

‘We need better jobs’

Katie Schmuecker from JRF said: “Work is the best route to economic security and a better standard of living and we welcome record levels of employment. But, as well as more jobs, we need better jobs so all families can benefit from economic growth. Despite working full time hours, more families are still falling short of what they need to make ends meet. We need the state and business to ensure people in work can achieve economy and security.

“The upcoming National Living Wage is a step towards building a society with higher wages and lower need for welfare, but it won’t take all of the strain.”

Government taking action

A Treasury spokesman said that the government was determined to deliver a new settlement for British people. He said: “Our welfare reforms ensure that the system is fair both for those who need it and the taxpayers who fund it. But there’s more to be done, which is why we are introducing the National Living Wage which will boost the pay of almost 6 million people.

“Together with further increases to the personal allowances this year, people will keep more of the money they earn by paying less income tax.

“We’re also taking action to support working families by freezing fuel duty, helping councils to freeze council tax bills and offering 30 hours of free childcare to all working parents, because evidence shows that the best route out of poverty is work, not benefits.”

Turn2us help

If you are in work but on a low income, there may be benefits, grants or other financial support available to you. The ‘In work - on a low income' section of the website has information about ways you might be able to get help. This includes information on Working Tax Credit.  

If you are struggling financially, you can also use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal circumstances and needs. The Your Situation section on our website contains information resources on benefits and grants and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find face to face advice in your local area.

Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation press release: Six in 10 households below decent living standard have someone in work, despite record employment


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