Researchers Shine Ray of Hope on Poverty
One hundred years on from its establishment to investigate social deprivation, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports today that although the causes and definitions of poverty have changed, the poor are still with us.
More accurately, it claims the low incomes of a substantial minority in Britain still exclude them from the fruits of growing prosperity enjoyed by the majority.
The report, launched at the Foundation’s centenary conference, recorded a century of change. It describes how unemployment in the 1920s and 1930s became the leading cause of poverty. This changed in the 1950s and 1960s when the largest group became older people.
Pensioner poverty declined in the 1970s, but in the 1980s levels of unemployment and lone parenthood increased at a time of rapidly widening income inequality. In 2000, a comparison among 15 European Union and other industrialised countries showed that only the United States and Ireland had worse relative poverty rates than Britain, and only the US had a worse relative rate of child poverty.
Looking ahead brightly, the researchers say current anti-poverty policies could see falling demands for welfare benefits free up resources for those who need them. But they warn any success could be overwhelmed by widening wealth inequality and low rates of pay for unskilled workers in an increasingly cut-throat, global market.
An ageing population could also place heavy demands on social spending, leading to tax increases and reduced political enthusiasm for spending on anti-poverty policies.
Co-author Prof. John Hills said: ‘Looking ahead over the coming decades, there is no easy way of predicting whether the optimistic or the pessimistic view will prevail. But we are more likely to establish a virtuous circle if the need for progress on reducing poverty is given a high public and political profile.’
Source: Third Force E-News
The report can be ordered (or downloaded for free as a PDF) at http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/images/orderreport.gif