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Working and poor

Poverty used to be synonymous with unemployment. Of course, there have always been poverty wages. But a report published on 4 December by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says, “There are now almost 4 million workers in poverty in the UK, a rise of over half a million compared with five years ago.” 

In fact, things are getting worse and worse, says the Foundation: “The rate of poverty among workers has been rising for five years, having already risen significantly over the previous decade. Since 2004/05, the number of workers in poverty has increased at a faster rate than the total number of people in employment.”

In the West Midlands alone, 270,000 children growing up in poverty live in a household where someone is working – 70,000 more than a decade ago.

The Foundation defines a family as in poverty if it has an income of less than 60 per cent of the median income for its family type, after housing costs – and it identifies “the struggle to pay for housing” as a key element in poverty growth, fuelled by rising social rents and “growing shortfalls in Housing Benefit”.

Here the Foundation is confirming a trend noted graphically by the Institute of Fiscal Studies earlier in 2018. Many more people are working, but still in poverty. In a report published in March the Institute noted that well over half (57 per cent) of the children and working adults living in poverty are in households where someone is in paid work. 

Around 25 years ago, in 1994/95, that figure was 35 per cent.

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