More Working Families In Poverty Than On Benefits In Wales, Study Finds

The Rise Of The Working Poor

The dire state of low pay in parts of Britain has been laid bare, with new statistics showing more working families in Wales are living in poverty than those on benefits.

In a study which gives a snapshot of the struggles of the UK's poorest, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found 51% of children and adults in poverty came from families who have jobs. And the proportion has been "rising steadily".

Almost 700,000 people in Wales live in poverty – nearly a quarter of the population.

A mother and son at the back of the council estate where they live (file photo)

The research, by a team at the New Policy Institute, blames the rise of in-work poverty on underemployment – where people lack the paid work they want – and low pay.

“This report shows there are not enough jobs, not enough hours and not enough pay for people," Peter Kenway, Director at NPI, said.

"These are families who are going out to work but still have so little they are living below the poverty line and struggling to make ends meet. Low pay and low hours go hand in hand: job creation is a priority, but this must lead to better pay and more hours to tackle in-work poverty.”

The rise of part-time work and zero-hours contracts favoured by employers has oft been blamed for inflating employment figures while families remain in poverty.

Around 30% of families working part-time live in poverty, compared to 7% for full-time working families. Meanwhile, a quarter of employees earning less than the Living Wage of £7.45 per hour are in poverty, compared to only 3% of those earning more.

"The extent of inactivity, disability and in-work poverty in Wales reflects weak demand for labour.

Wales needs job creation to defeat poverty," the report said.

In June, a study by the Resolution Foundation found that two out of three children living in poverty, 66%, are now from working families.

The Government has a legal responsibility, under the Child Poverty Act passed in the final weeks of Gordon Brown's administration in 2010, to reduce relative child poverty to below 10% by 2020.

Thursday's report calls for a sharp focus on job creation and not just welfare reform, and calls for more pressure to be put on employers to pay a Living Wage.

Aleks Collingwood, Policy and Research Manager at JRF, said: “Shielding families from further hardship is crucial, but policy makers must also ensure public services meet the needs of those who struggle to access them. Poorer working families may lack time as well as money, so that means making sure they can access things such as childcare and doctor’s surgeries.”

Chris Mould, executive chair of the Trussell Trust, the UK's largest network of food banks, told HuffPost UK the conclusions of the report reflected what food bank volunteers were seeing across the country.

"It is clear that many working families are feeling the pinch from flatlining wages which are completely out of line with the spiraling costs of living," he said.

"Our data shows 19% of people helped by UK foodbanks last year were there simply because they didn’t earn enough.

"The Trussell Trust is seeing rapid growth in the number of foodbanks opening across the network, with the figure in Wales doubling from 2011/12 to 2012/13 and more foodbanks opening in areas typically considered affluent."


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