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In-work poverty is a big challenge facing Brits

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
04/02/2020
The employment rate is at a record high but in-work poverty is also rising, according to a leading think tank.

Almost seven in ten working age adults live in poverty today, either being in employment themselves or living in a household where someone else works.

This is up from five in 10 recorded 20 years ago, according to research by the Resolution Foundation and Clarion Housing Group.

The Working hard(ship) report reveals that while poverty rates fall from 35% to 18% when people move into work, social housing tenants in work are more than twice as likely to live in poverty (34%) than home owners and those in private rented accommodation (13%).

Resolution Foundation said that while record employment figures have gone hand-in-hand with rising in-work poverty, moving into work is still an effective way for someone to exit poverty. But wider support is needed, with the benefits system playing a critical role to help in-work households.

For example, a single parent with two children would have had to work 16 hours per week on the minimum wage to escape poverty if no benefit changes had happened since 2010. However, benefit cuts mean that same single parent now needs to work 23 hours per week to escape poverty.

The think tank said firms and policy makers need to focus on further interventions to reduce poverty, including better progression routes into higher paid work; more childcare support for parents keen to work more hours; more new affordable homes (including social housing); and, a benefits system that provides strong work incentives at the same time as offering adequate support for low-income working families.

Lindsay Judge, principal analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “With almost seven-in-ten poor adults today either working themselves or living with someone else who works, the issue of in-work poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing 21st century Britain.

“But the rise of in-work poverty has led some to mistakenly downplay the importance of work in tackling poverty. In fact, finding a job halves someone’s chances of living in poverty.

“However, work alone cannot eliminate poverty. Support to sustain employment and progress out of low pay are needed alongside a benefit system that provides adequate support for low-income working families.”

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