High childcare costs are leaving parents who work full time at the national minimum wage thousands of pounds a year short of being able to afford what the public defines as a basic acceptable standard of living. Benefit cuts and rising costs are reducing minimum income needed by low paid to live well, says Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
A two-child couple each working full time on the minimum wage of £7.20 an hour would fall £2,600 a year – or 12% – short of the minimum income standard after paying rent and childcare, the study finds. The shortfall is even more dramatic for a lone parent working full time at minimum wage, who after paying rent and childcare would be £2,860 a year or £55 a week short of what they require, a gap of 18%. JRF said childcare costs were one of the biggest barriers preventing working families achieving a decent standard of living
A two-child couple on out-of work benefits would receive just 39% of what the public consider to be an adequate basic income.
“Some difficult times lie ahead for families that depend on state benefits, whether in or out of work,” the report says.
The research, carried out by Loughborough University centre for research in social policy, asks the public to define the minimum income required to enable households to afford to buy not just basics such as food, clothes and shelter but to participate in social and family life, such as occasionally going out, taking a modest holiday once a year, and buying birthday presents for relatives and friends.
A couple with two children need to earn at least £37,800 to meet the basic standards, while a lone parent with one child needs to earn £27,900, the research finds. A single person with no children requires £17,100 a year. According to the public, a single working-age adult would need to spend a weekly minimum of £44.72 on food to ensure they eat healthily three times a day. The minimum food budget for a pensioner couple was £71.99, £100.96 for a couple with two children, and £56.85 for a single parent with one child.
The public’s 2016 definitions of a basic minimum income appeared to be influenced by years of austerity, with households expected to economise more than in previous surveys, to eat out less often and try harder to seek out deals and bargains. Families were also expected to rent smaller homes and require their younger children to share bedrooms.
But there was also an acceptance that basic living standard rises were neccessary in areas such as car use, which was seen as increasingly essential because of unreliable and costly public transport, and the need to travel further to access job opportunities.