Opinions clearly vary.

Professor Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty commented of the UK,

“14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line,1 and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials.2 The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%.3  For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.”

On the other hand, the Conservative party Facebook page says,

“NEW STAT ????: Wages are rising at their fastest pace in nearly ten years.

And the number of people in work is at a record high as our economy continues to grow. ​????

We’re working to create more, better paying jobs across the whole country.​”


Where does the truth lie?


As the chart shows, while it is true that the economy is continuing to grow (albeit slowly), earnings have actually been declining – there are not more, better paying jobs across the whole country. In fact, what is happening is that those who have to work for their living are gradually getting poorer while those who rely on unearned income – rents, dividends, et cetera – have seen a rapid growth in their income. Very few of these are in the bottom 90%.

And as the social metrics commission points out:

·         There are 14.3 million people in poverty in the UK. This includes 8.3 million working-age adults; 4.6 million children; and 1.3 million pension-age adults

·         The current rate of poverty is 22%, which is the same as last year and only slightly lower than the 24% seen in 2000/01 (the first available year of results using the Commission’s approach). 

·         A third (31%) of people in poverty – 4.5 million people – are more than 50% below the poverty line, and this proportion has not changed since the millennium.

·         Just under half (49%) of those in poverty – 7 million people – are in persistent poverty, meaning they are in poverty now and have also been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years.