Latest analysis of in-work poverty

9 March 2018

Hand holding change from purse

One quarter of people living in workless households continue to live in poverty even if they gain a worker, according to analysis by Cardiff University academics.

The research into in-work poverty by Dr Rod Hick of the University’s School of Social Sciences, along with Dr Alba Lanau of the University of Bristol, also found families with children and lone parents disproportionately fell into this group.

The paper, ‘Moving In and Out of In-work Poverty in the UK: An Analysis of Transitions, Trajectories and Trigger Events’, is based on an analysis of in-work poverty following households over a four year period  – between 2010/11 and 2013/14. It finds that there is a lot of movement in and out of in-work poverty. Changes to circumstances which can lift a household out of poverty include a rise in wages or an increase in the number of people working.

However, the paper also highlights the unstable nature of work for some in poverty. According to the findings, people living in poor, working households are three times more likely to become workless than those in working households that are not classed as poor.

When looking at in-work poverty by regions, the analysis found Northern Ireland was the area of the UK where people are more likely to enter working poverty and less likely to exit, compared to people living in England.

Dr Hick, who carried out the research, said: “While working poor families are indeed working, their position is on average more vulnerable and precarious compared to those higher up the income distribution. Losing a worker, or working fewer hours, is something that they can scarcely afford, and these negative shocks help to explain the transition to worklessness.

“On the other hand, for too many workless families, finding work does not lift them out of poverty.

In both cases, policy needs to support those with a weak labour market attachment and, especially, families with children. Only when this becomes a reality can work truly be said to guarantee a route out of poverty.”

The research paper, published in The Journal of Social Policy, is the latest in a study of in-work poverty, funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

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