Nineteen million people on incomes below 'decent living standard', Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds

Written by Josh May on 15 February 2017 in News

A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found four million more people living below the minimum income standard

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Nineteen million people are on incomes below what is needed for a “decent living standard”, a new report warns today. 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found there were 19 million people in 2014/15 living on less than the minimum income standard (MIS) benchmark, four million more than in 2008/09.

Of those, 11 million were found to be living “far short” of the standard, at less than 75 per cent of the MIS, up 1.9 million on six years ago.


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The charity warned that the situation could be exacerbated by rising inflation, with projections that the cost of living could rise by a further 10 per cent by the end of the decade.

Yesterday, official statistics showed prices rising at their fastest rate since 2014, with higher import costs as a result of sterling depreciation expected to push them up further in coming months.

Campbell Robb, the chief executive of the JRF, said the “just managing families” identified by Theresa May as one of her key priorities for her premiership were facing a “very difficult time”.

“The high cost of living has already helped push four million more people below an adequate income, and if the cost of essentials such as food, energy and housing rise further, we need to take action to ease the strain,” he said.  

“The Government can help in next month’s Budget by allowing families to keep more of their earnings and ensuring benefits and tax credits keep up with the rising cost of living.”

The JRF said although employment had recovered since the financial crash, earnings growth was less robust.

“While employment is now at record levels, those in work often lack stable earnings at a level sufficient to reach MIS – six in every ten working-age households below MIS now have someone in work – and tax credits to help low-income working families have been cut,” the charity added.

Lone parents working full-time had a 28 per cent chance of being below the MIS in 2008, but that had risen to 42 per cent by last year.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the figures were “no surprise” to those who have been struggling on lower incomes.

She added: “There’s a problem here and the government needs to do something about it. The Prime Minister needs to tell us what her plan is to get wages rising faster.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “This report makes clear millions more people are struggling to make ends meet as a result of this Government’s seven wasted years of austerity.

“If the Tories were serious about supporting families on low incomes they would start by reversing cuts to in-work support that will see some working families worse off by £2,600 a year.”

The MIS is put together by researchers at Loughborough University by studying people’s assessments of what is needed for a household to have a minimum acceptable standard of living.

The income benchmark differs for different groups of people, such as pensioners, lone parents, and couples without children.

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