Friday, 13th December 2013
UK: Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion
Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation (UK)
13 million people in the UK were in poverty in 2011/12, the most recent year for which there is data. Poverty is measured by net household income, adjusted for size (bigger ones need more money to reach a given standard of living than smaller ones) and after housing costs have been deducted. People are counted as being in poverty if their household income is below 60 per cent of the median (mid-point) income for all UK households. In 2011/12, this poverty threshold for a single adult was £128. For a couple with two children it was £357.
Obviously 13 million is far too high. Yet expressed as a proportion of the population, this 21 per cent ‘poverty rate’ is the lowest since 2004/05, which itself was the lowest for more than a decade. This year’s rate is the second lowest since more reliable official statistics began to be collected in the mid-1990s. But this is little comfort for two reasons.
First, the latest poverty statistics are two years old. For many children and working-age adults with low household incomes, the ongoing squeeze on incomes of the last two years can only have increased both the extent of poverty (the numbers affected) and its depth (how far their household incomes are below the poverty line). This is true for both children and adults and for those both in working and non-working families....
Second, the headline poverty rate understates the squeeze there has been on those with low incomes. That is because the extent of poverty in any year is measured relative to median incomes in the same year. Over the four years to 2011/12 median income fell by an unprecedented 8 per cent. The effect of this is that the threshold against which poverty is measured also fell. A family could be in poverty in 2008,see no rise in their income over four years, and yet not be in poverty by 2012 simply because the median had fallen.
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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.
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