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Crossing the poverty line

26 January, 2024

A recent report from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows that poverty in the UK is deepening, and that escaping poverty has become significantly harder over the past two decades.

The report highlights that the average person living in poverty had an income 29% below the poverty line in 2021-22, compared to 23% in the mid-1990s. The signs of this are all around us – record high usage of food banks, temporary accommodation, and reliance on charities for food and shelter. Failure to address this is damaging to both the wellbeing of those affected and to already stretched public services.

At the heart of the change needed is secure, affordable housing, employment, and social security. But despite the fact that work can still act as a route out of poverty, previous reports from the Social Market Foundation remind us that in-work poverty remains a growing problem and it is not a guaranteed method of escape.

This means that the record-high number of people in employment is not as positive a signal for future prospects as it might once have been. Recent increases in employment are primarily driven by increased numbers of part-time and self-employed workers, who face a higher risk of in-work poverty than other workers.

As we approach a general election, government-led action to alleviate national hardship is even more critical. However, business can play an important role too – something we wrote about in a previous Friday 5 special. But business action is not just limited to paying employees responsibly, it encompasses respecting the rights of workers, accommodating flexible working and ultimately provide security. As the JRF’s report states, employees want – and need – their employers to do more to help tackle in-work poverty problem.

By Budd Nicholson

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