One in three people have experienced poverty in recent years, according to figures that underline the precarious nature of work in Britain. Anti-poverty campaigners say it highlights Britons’ relatively high chances of falling into poverty as the latest evidence that a preponderance of low-paying and low-skilled jobs left many families at risk of hardship. Other evidence of low job security in the UK. Between 2010 and 2013, 7.8% of the UK population entered poverty for the first time. Only Ireland and Greece in the EU had higher entry rates.
In 2014 6.5% of the UK population was in persistent poverty, amounting to approximately 3.9 million people. Between 2011 and 2014, 32.5% of the UK population experienced relative income poverty at least once (low income of less than 60% of median household income.)
The ONS also noted that some people were significantly more at risk of enduring poverty than others. The persistent poverty rate was higher for women than for men and it was higher for single-person households than those with two adults. Education also played a role, and two in five people who left school without any formal qualifications experienced poverty at least once between 2011 and 2014, the ONS said. That compared with one in five of those with a degree or higher.
The Trades Union Congress said the relatively high chance of falling into poverty in the UK was a longstanding trend. “We have a long history of what is called ‘rubber band’* or recurrent poverty – lots of people who bounce between being and not quite being poor,” said Richard Exell, the TUC’s senior labour market analyst. “There are long-term institutional factors including weak trade unions, low collective bargaining coverage, an economy that has large numbers of people at the bottom end of the skills range and a lack of vocational training.” [*SOYMB might call it robber-band poverty]
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the figures showed the government must do more to increase social mobility and job security.
Labour market experts emphasise that record high employment has failed to usher in a corresponding recovery in wage growth. Some of that is explained by the fact many of the jobs being created are in low-paying, low-skilled work where there is little prospect of promotion. Conor D’Arcy, a policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said the figures in part reflected the fact job tenure was relatively short in the UK. The figures also echoed the thinktank’s findings that people in the UK struggle to escape low pay. A Resolution Foundation investigation last year found that over a 10-year period, just one in four low-paid workers managed to move on to consistently higher wages.