A recent study from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the poverty rate in the United Kingdom fell slightly between 2014 and 2015, dropping from 16.8 percent to 16.7 percent. This rate puts the U.K. roughly in the middle of all E.U. member countries, and just below the E.U. average of 17.3 percent.
The report of a fall in the overall poverty rate in the United Kingdom also came with a reported rise in the persistent poverty rate. The persistent poverty rate is defined as being below the poverty line in the current year, as well as in 2 of the previous 3 years. The persistent poverty rate jumped from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 7.3 percent in 2015. The jump means that 700,000 more people were persistently poor in 2015 than 2014. However, this rate ties for the fifth-lowest in the E.U. and is well below the E.U. average of 10.9 percent.
The rise in the persistent poverty rate did lead to concern from different parties. Justin Watson, the head of the Oxfam U.K. Programme, welcomed the relatively low persistent poverty rate compared to the rest of the E.U. while expressing concern about the 4.6 million people experiencing persistent poverty. Others expressed concern about rising child poverty rates and a disparity between male and female persistent poverty rates.
Addressing the U.K.poverty rate will require more than employment expansion. Median earnings are down 5 percent in the U.K. since the 2008 global recession, even while employment is up 1.5 percent in that same period, hitting a record high in July 2017. A government official cited multiple steps being taken in addition to employment in the attempt to address the overall U.K. poverty rate. In fact, the government spends £90 billion a year on working age benefits, the National Living Wage is rising and income tax is being lowered or eliminated for millions of people.
– Erik Beck