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in-work child poverty in the UK on the rise

December 6, 2010


Many headlines in this morning’s newspapers picked up on the thirteenth Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report that was published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. One of report’s main findings is that child poverty amongst children living in working families has increased in recent years. Whilst overall child poverty dropped to 3.7 million, the number of poor children living in families with parents or caretakers that work now amounts to 2.1 million (figures from Guardian). In other words, the number of poor children living in working families exceeds the number of poor children  in families where parents or caretakers do not work.

It is striking to see this two-fold performance of the social welfare system in the UK. Whilst the combination of benefits, tax credits and other schemes for unemployed families goes a long way in protecting from falling into poverty, it seems to do the opposite once people get back into work. As many benefits are strongly tied to inactivity on the labor market, the new-found earnings from a new job are often not enough to offset the monthly income from the benefit scheme. It creates a lock-in effect and poverty trap that is now reflected in an increase in in-work child poverty rates. It also puts the new Government’s rhetoric of getting people off benefits and into work in a new light as the report clearly suggests that work alone doesn’t do the trick to lift people out of poverty – it might actually cause them to fall into poverty. At the very least, these new foundings call for renewed attention for the working poor and the acknowledgment that efforts towards getting people (back) into work needs to go hand-in-hand with actual improvements in their living conditions.

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