Working families running to a standstill
In order to achieve what the public deems is a socially acceptable standard of living, covering everything from childcare to transport and food to gas bills, a working couple with two children now needs to earn at least £36,800 a year, up by a third since 2008.
The study found that working families have been hit harder by rising costs than many other parts of society, and unless their earnings have risen by 16% above inflation since the UK first fell into recession in 2008, then their standard of living has deteriorated.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Families have a monumental task trying to earn enough to get by. Parents facing low wages and pressure on their working time have little prospect of finding the extra money they need to meet growing household expenses.”
A single earner must have an income of a minimum of £16,400, as an average figure across the UK, to afford a minimum acceptable standard of living. While two parents need to earn £18,400 each in order to support themselves and two children.
Unwin continued: “This year’s research shows that a dangerous cocktail of service cuts and stagnating incomes are being keenly felt by parents. Many working people face the risk of sliding into poverty. It illustrates how anti-poverty measures are needed to address not just people’s incomes but also the costs that they face.”
The research also found that in some areas of life what constituted a ‘minimum standard’ has fallen, with people now accepting a lower budget for eating out and exchanging Christmas and birthday presents.
Meanwhile, items such as computers and the Internet are now seen as necessities for all working-age families, a notable change since 2008.
Donald Hirsch, co-author of the report, added: “Parents have not changed their view of most needs, including a nutritious diet and participation by children in activities vital for social inclusion. What has changed is the ability of many families to afford such essentials.”