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Working families worst-hit by poverty, Joseph Rowntree Foundation report reveals
MORE people in working families are living in poverty than those in non-working households for the first time, research published today by a York charity has revealed.
The annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion Study, compiled by the New Policy Institute for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said almost 13 million people in the UK are below the poverty line, and 6.7 million of these live in a family with at least one working adult, 500,000 more than last year.
The report said the decline in average incomes over the last two years has wiped out any benefit from the UK's 'boom' decade, but incomes for the poorest ten per cent of people have been falling for even longer, since 2004/05.
The JRF said this showed that, despite optimistic noises about economic recovery, this was not being reflected in people's pay packets and living standards.
Other findings include:
* The proportion of low-paid jobs in the UK increased in 2012, with 60 per cent of these roles being filled by people over 30.
* As well as the 13 million people living in poverty, a further two million are on incomes which would have seen them fall into this bracket in 2008.
* Five million people were paid less than the Living Wage in 2012, up from 4.6 million in 2011, and half of the working families in poverty have at least one adult who receives less than the Living Wage level.
* The number of jobseekers referred for sanctions (1.6 million) and those whose Job Seekers Allowance payments were stopped or reduced (800,000) doubled between 2010 and 2012.
* 400,000 families have been hit by overlapping benefits cuts from the "bedroom tax" and council tax benefit, two-thirds of which were already in poverty.
However, the study said there were also positive findings, with youth unemployment peaking at 21 per cent but not rising and unemployment as a whole beginning to fall. The number of underemployed people dropped by 100,000 over the last year, and the percentage of pupils receiving free school meals who fail to get at least five GCSEs at grade C or higher has also fallen.
It also said the proportion of pensioners in poverty is at its lowest level for almost 30 years, although this was balanced out by the number of working-age people who do not have children and are in poverty being the highest on record.
The report is compiled through a range of indicators, including Government data, with poverty determined by net household income adjusted for family size and after housing costs are deducted.
"This research shows millions of people are moving in and out of work, but rarely out of poverty," said JRF chief executive Julia Unwin.
"Hard work is not working. We have a labour market which lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages which are insufficient to make ends meet. While a recovery may be gathering momentum in the statistics and official forecasts, for those at the bottom, improving pay and prospects remain a mirage. Recent economic improvements do not outweigh the damage inflicted during the downturn to the incomes of the poorest people across the country.
"Our report demonstrates there has been progress in some areas and the tide has turned on employment, but this has not been matched by improvements in wages. We must strengthen our efforts to reduce poverty - it is damaging to the people who experience it and harmful to our economic prospects."
New Policy Institute director and report author Peter Kenway said the "value of the safety net" for working adults was now "sinking steadily" and the support offered to people suffering hardship was "increasingly threadbare" amid benefit cuts.
He said: "A strong safety net to catch those who fall is vital for social mobility - millions are saved by it every year even now - yet no leading politician will defend it."
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