Thursday, February 16, 2017

The poor

Anyone who has lived in poverty knows that it is not a life of luxury, but one of hard grind. Millions of people throughout the country are faced with desperate choices, not, for example, whether to buy Nike or Reebok, but whether to pay the rent or feed their children. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that inflation could push a further four million people below the poverty line, and research at The Equality Trust has found 6.5 million households are in debt, or face the prospect of falling into debt within a month, should they lose their jobs.  Many find themselves trapped in low-skilled, low-paid jobs with little opportunity for promotion or advancement.   Alongside this many are squeezed by cuts to social security, and while they are doing everything humanly possible, budgeting carefully, and stretching every penny, they’re still struggling. One thing that hasn’t changed is people blaming the indigent for their poverty; since the 1880s, the upper and middle class have had no sympathy for the variability in income and the lack of social safety net for working-class people. The upper class viewed poor people as lazy or unwilling to work, and they still do.

 Every year the Office of National Statistics produces its Family Spending Survey publication, a huge release of data on the spending habits of households, broken down by income decile. It shows that far from blowing huge sums of money on luxury items, unsurprisingly, most poorer households spend very little on anything beyond the absolute essentials. 
In fact, the richest 10% of households spend considerably more per week on furniture and furnishings (£34.50), than the poorest spend on food (£30.40). They also spend more on their pets (£7.90 a week) than the poorest do on clothing and footwear (£6.30). Before you ask, no, it’s not all the money wasted on booze and fags either. The richest 10% spends as much on alcohol and tobacco each week as the poorest do on their gas and electricity bills (£17.70).

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