Four million people in poverty despite having jobs, damning report reveals

Posted On: 
4th December 2018

A shocking four million people in Britain live in poverty despite having jobs, a damning new report has claimed.

The JRF painted a damning picture of poverty in the UK
PA Images

Campaigners said in-work poverty was rising faster than the overall employment rate, in a major blow for the Government and its championing of work as a route out of deprivation.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said one in five people living in the UK was in poverty - amounting to 14.3 million people overall - with half a million more kids living below the breadline since 2011/12.

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Labour said the report was a “wake-up call” for the Government, while councils demanded more resources to help lift people out of poverty and prevent homelessness.

But the Government rejected the findings - and under a different poverty measure said a million fewer people were living below the breadline.

The JRF annual state of the nation report said the soaring in-work poverty rates had been driven “almost entirely” by an increase among working parents.

“Rising employment alone is not delivering lower poverty. Rather, in-work poverty is increasing faster than employment,” it said.

“Many workers are caught in the middle of a series of moving currents; stuck in low-paid work, with little chance of progression, subject to high housing costs and using a weakening social security system.”

The JRF said 8.2 million working-age adults live in poverty, alongside 4.1 million children and 1.9 million pensioners. Eight million people live in poverty in families where at least one person is in work, it added.

It argued pay boosts from the higher minimum wage were being outweighed by changes to benefits, including shortfalls in housing benefits, and rising social rents.


Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the UK was suffering a “rising tide of child poverty” which was leaving families in “impossible situations”.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “This report should be a wake-up call for the government: there is something seriously wrong when the number of people in work in poverty is increasing faster than employment.

“Increasing numbers of children are growing up in poverty as their parents are unable to escape insecure work and low pay.”


But the Government rejected the findings and took issue with the measure of poverty in the report. The JRF uses ‘relative’ poverty - which means whether or not a person can afford an ordinary living pattern.

In the UK a household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60% of average household incomes.

Ministers instead said the picture was much better under the ‘absolute’ poverty measure - comparing needs to a set income from 2010/11.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We disagree with this report, and there are now one million fewer people living in absolute poverty since 2010, including 300,000 children.

“With this Government’s changes household incomes have never been higher, income inequality has fallen, taxes are down for families and businesses, and there are fewer children in workless households than ever before, boosting their prospects in life.”