In-Work Poverty Outstrips Number Of Unemployed Poor, Says Joseph Rowntree Foundation

26/11/2012 09:19 GMT | Updated 26/11/2012 14:05 GMT

The number of working people living in poverty has outstripped the number of those who are unemployed and poor, according to a new report.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said more than six million people classed as living in poverty were in households where people worked, compared to 5.1 million unemployed people in poverty.

According to the report 1.4 million people are who want a full-time job are only working part time, an increase of 500,000 since 2009.


The number of working people living in poverty has outstripped the number of those unemployed, excluding pensioners

"Leaving pensioners aside, there is now more in-work poverty than workless poverty," the report states.

In a blog for The Hufington Post UK, Aleks Collingwood of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the report showed "anyone is at risk" of poverty.

"It's a common misconception that people in poverty in Britain are out of work, on-benefits and badly educated; and a fair number are. However, what this report shows is that anyone is at risk. People in Britain are in a constant cycle in and out of work, and millions have been in and out of poverty since the economic downturn - five million people have claimed jobseekers' allowance (JSA) at least once in the last two years."

Spending on benefits and tax credits has never been higher, at 13% of GDP, while almost five million people have claimed Jobseeker's Allowance at least once in the last two years, said the Monitoring Poverty report, written by the New Policy Institute (NPI).

Julia Unwin, chief executive of JRF, said: "The level of in-work poverty is the most distinctive characteristic of poverty today. We need a relentless focus on fixing the labour market to ensure people have the opportunity to improve their prospects.

"More people than we can imagine will have experienced poverty since the downturn, circling in and out of insecure, short-term and poorly paid jobs. Tackling poverty requires a comprehensive strategy, but overcoming the frail jobs market, and the huge cost of outgoings on essentials that quickly eat up wages, must be the starting point."

Tom MacInnes, research director of NPI, said: "Low wages are a drag on economic recovery and cause families to struggle with the costs they face, trapping them below the breadline. Changes across five decades demonstrate poverty is not inevitable - reductions in child and pensioner poverty show that.

"But it is in-work poverty that is becoming the modern face of hardship, and at the same time support for working people is being cut. The high level of in-work poverty undermines any idea that better incentives to enter work, the centrepiece of Universal Credit, is some kind of cure-all."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: "Unemployment has always been a fast-track to poverty, but it's shameful that for millions of people in Britain today, work is no longer a route out of it.

"People are taking any job they can to make ends meet but unless our economy starts growing again we won't deliver the high quality full-time jobs that people really need.

"Some employers are fuelling low pay Britain by paying staff the bare minimum when they can easily afford to pay more. We want more employers to pay a living wage, and for the Government to play its part by ensuring its cleaners and security staff get a decent wage."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with Universal Credit simplifying the complex myriad of means-tested benefits.

"It will make work pay - by allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money as they move into work - and directly lift hundreds of thousands out of poverty altogether.

"Furthermore, for people who have been dependent on benefits for years moving into work can seem a big risk, Universal Credit will reward people who choose to go back to work by ensuring that you are better off in work than on benefits for taking that risk."