Thursday, December 14News For London

Nearly 4 million UK workers live in poverty

Around 3.7 million workers live in poverty in the UK, according to a new Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report. The research highlights an increasingly worrisome trend that employment is no longer a safety net from poverty.

Leaders and users take to social media to condemn new UK poverty numbers. Graphic by Jane Bracher

The research marked an alarming shift in UK poverty rates, where after two decades of decreases, in recent years trends have gone up with the number of people in poverty now at 14 million or over one in five of the population. The report also noted that nearly 400,000 more children and about 300,000 more pensioners are below the poverty line than in 2012-13.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the latest poverty numbers as a ‘national scandal’ and blamed Tory austerity for the ‘untold suffering’.

Tory austerity has caused untold suffering and pushed hundreds of thousands more pensioners and children into poverty,” Corbyn said on his Twitter account. “Labour will put a stop to this national scandal and govern for the many, not the few.

Critical in the report is how the very factors that initially contributed to the decrease in poverty rates over the past couple of decades are no longer working at present. This includes increased benefits and tax credits support as well as housing benefits and more home ownership.

Also noted is how many people in poverty are unable to cope with the continued rise of costs of living despite being employed. The report found that 47 per cent of working-age adults in the poorest fifth of the country put over a third of their income towards housing.

“Record employment is not leading to lower poverty, changes to benefits and tax credits are reducing incomes and crippling costs are squeezing budgets to breaking point,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of the JRF. “The Budget offered little to ease the strain and put low-income households’ finances on a firmer footing.”

The findings are also concerning at a time when an estimated five million people in the UK are self-employed, with the gig economy likewise a growing trend.

“These worrying figures suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty,” Robb added. “Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet. This is a very real warning sign that our hard-fought progress is in peril.”

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, called for an end to discrimination against single parents. Lone parents are among the groups with consistently high poverty rates and they’ve continued to increase due to cuts in support by way of benefits and tax credits.

A govt that cares about families would invest in affordable childcare, stop labelling single parents feckless & condemning their children, support the years of unpaid care work that leave women retiring into poverty w tiny pensions. For shame,” she tweeted.

Many have taken to social media to decry the state of poverty in the UK using the hashtag #solveUKpoverty.

Some also defended everyone’s rights to mobile phones, saying technology is now an inevitable part of everyday life.

While others spoke up against blaming refugees and migrants.

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Sub-editing by Martin Steers