Poverty & work


On BBC Radio 4's Today Programme (20/5/01), a government spokesman was asked about the government's commitment to reducing poverty. He said the answer was to "get people into work". No response from the BBC presenter – presumably due to ignorance of the following...

Poverty levels actually increased during the 1990s when an increasing proportion of the population got jobs. Creating jobs doesn't cure poverty if 90% of the jobs created pay poverty-level wages.

According to a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation: "Even with a minimum wage in force, many families will still find that their household earnings are not adequate to lift the household out of poverty."

Another study by the same foundation concludes that "even if full employment were achieved, poverty and exclusion would not disappear. Earnings can be too low."

The government boasted that its Working Families Tax Credit will help remove poverty. This is essentially welfare (under a different name) for people with low-paid jobs. So, it's not the increased number of jobs that will reduce poverty, it's the fact that people with jobs are more likely to get increases in welfare than people without jobs.

Poverty statistics (sourced May 2001):

• In 1983, 14% of UK households lived in poverty. That proportion increased to 21% in 1990, and to 26% by the end of 1999. (Meanwhile, unemployment in 1999 was at the lowest level for 20 years.)

• One in six British people are considered to be living in "absolute poverty" as defined by the United Nations.

• 9.5 million people in Britain today cannot afford adequate housing conditions.

• A 2000 government report estimated that 1 in 3 UK children lives in poverty.