Is poverty really a problem that affects the UK?

Photo by Taufiq Klinkenborg

By Manisha Matthews
Subedited by Anjali Gaur

For a country that is classed as one of the most developed countries in the world and holds a ranking of 14 on the Human Development Index, according to the Human Development Report in 2015, most would not assume that poverty would be a problem that would affect so many of its people. However, the reality paints a very different picture.

The Office for National Statistics released a report on 16 May 2016 stating that 3.9 million people residing within the UK are living in “persistent poverty.” This is where worryingly enough people earn incomes below 60% of the national median, making them further at risk of falling into poverty. Furthermore, what makes this statistic all the more distressing is that those living within these conditions have been doing so during the present year as well as 2 out of the 3 years preceding it.

Living under such limited means limits a household’s disposable income, the money remaining after paying taxes such as national insurance, income tax as well as council tax. This is a cause for concern as this could leave a lot of families, especially mothers and children, unable to afford the essential means of subsistence such as food and clothing, pushing them all the more closer towards destitution.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost a third (32.5%) of the UK population has been at risk of poverty in at least 1 year out of the 4 year period between 2011 and 2014. Drawing from the data from the above table, there has been no significant change in this statistic since 2008, showing how pressing this issue is because on average every year, a third of the general public are at risk of falling into poverty.

Furthermore, rates seem to be only getting worse especially in regards to the more vulnerable members of society such as women, children and the elderly.

Households led by single parents have a higher risk of experiencing persistent poverty with 48% enduring such living conditions at least once and 33% for at least two years or more.

Moreover, the chart below identifies both children and the elderly as those that are the most vulnerable to suffering from poverty. It highlights that between the years of 2011 and 2014, 41% of those aged 65 and over, 34% of those aged 18 and below and 29% of those aged between 18 and 64 experienced poverty at least once during this four year period.

It can be assumed that children and the elderly are in dire need of support because of the attached dependency both age groups naturally have on others.

Both age groups may find it difficult to find employment in which they can earn adequate income to survive. Youth is often associated with a lack of experience and qualifications whilst old age is often associated with tardiness, declining health and arguably poorer quality of work. Also, both age groups are more prone to medical ailments and so they may find themselves quite easily at risk of experiencing poverty when keeping in mind costs for general care during both age groups.

Another societal minority group that poverty seemingly affects more is that of women. Women are more likely to retain a higher rate of experiencing persistent poverty than men.

What is most worrying about the above chart is that the difference between both males and females suffering from this living state is the fact that it has remained unchanged. Despite figures decreasing, the difference between both males and females experiencing poverty has been roughly maintained during the 6 year period displayed, showing consistently each year the same proportion of women are experiencing poverty that much more than men.

The reason for such high rates of poverty could be attributed to the high rates of unemployment. Many blame events such as the Great Recession of 2008 and even, further, the Eurozone Crisis. With the banking crisis of 2008 as well as arguably 2011 and Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain close to economic collapse, the International Labour Organization (ILO) claimed that an estimated 20 million jobs would be lost towards the end of 2009. This figure continued to rise with the ONS reporting 8.1% of the population were unemployed during 2011.

Even more so, the level of immigration has also increased since 2008 with 617,000 reported to have immigrated into the UK whilst only 294,000 reported to have emigrated from the UK in September 2015, according to the ONS. The resulting net migration, despite positive, has left the UK with fewer jobs available but more of the population in need of them.

Nevertheless, according to the ONS unemployment rates have fallen to 5.4% in 2015, allowing for the fact that it could just take a certain period of time for the effects of the Great Recession and the Eurozone Crisis to dissipate and with this the level of poverty experienced in the UK will also fall accordingly.

However, in spite of poverty rates seemingly decreasing over time in the above charts, the graph below has shown that there is an expected increase in relative poverty rates within the near future, particularly affecting children as well as pensioners.

It is evident that this is just an estimate but if such a large amount of the population is already presently at risk of or is currently suffering from poverty, then not enough is being done to prevent those from becoming destitute in the near future and changes need to be made.

About Breathe News 262 Articles
Breathe News provides reactionary commentary on various aspects of contemporary culture, focusing on the misdeeds of political figures, the actions of governments, and global economic inequalities. We address socio-political issues through the use of multimedia content to tell a story from all angles. Breathe News aims to implement and promote change by informing our readers about a given problem and appealing to people's sense of justice. An informative, entertaining news site propelling social impact during turbulent times.

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