The number of working households living in poverty has more than doubled in a decade, according to a damning new report published on Wednesday, with one in eight living below the breadline.
More than half (55%) of people living in poverty are from working families, a record high. An estimated 1.1 million working people have slipped below the poverty line since 2010-11, with in-work poverty driven by the UK housing crisis and cuts to working age benefits.
7.4 million working people in the UK are now living in poverty. 2.6 million children from working households are also believed to be in poverty.
In total, 13.5 million Britons are living in poverty, or 21% of the UK’s entire population.
The official definition of poverty uses relative income as a measure of who is in poverty. In the UK, this is set at 60% of the median income.
Poverty rates are soaring in the private rented sector. High costs and insecurities mean the number of private tenants in poverty has doubled since 2004/05, increasing from 2.2 million to 4.5 million households today.
Almost three-quarters of the poorest households in the private rented sector spend more than a third of their income on rent, compared to 28% of owner occupiers and 50% of social renters with a similar income. Worryingly, around half of children in rented homes live in poverty.
The number of evictions by a landlords have risen from 23,000 in 2010/11 to 37,000 in 2015/16, even though mortgage repossession have fallen from 23,000 to 3,300.
The report also highlights huge disparages in poverty across the UK, with more than half of those in poverty living in London and southern England. The capital has the highest poverty rate at 27%, 6% higher than the UK average.
People with disabilities are particularly susceptible, due to extra living costs associated with disability. The report found that half of people living in poverty are either themselves disabled or are living with a disabled person.
Helen Barnard, Head of Analysis at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The UK economy is not working for low-income families. The economy has been growing since 2010 but during this time high rents, low wages and cuts to working-age benefits mean that many families, including working households, have actually seen their risk of poverty grow.
“As it negotiates Brexit, it is vital that the Government does not allow its focus to slip from the domestic concerns that make a huge difference to people who are just about managing.
“This report shows that people on low-incomes cannot rely on economic growth and rising employment alone to improve their financial prospects.
“Families who are just about managing urgently need action to drive up real-term wages, provide more genuinely affordable homes and fill the gap caused by cuts to Universal Credit, which will cost a working family of four almost £1,000 per year.”
Dr Peter Kenway, director of the NPI added: “An adult in poverty today is much more likely to be young, working and a tenant living the private rented sector than 15 years ago.
“But modern poverty is also increasingly linked with disability. After allowing for the higher cost of living, half of those in poverty today are either sick or disabled themselves or live with someone else who is.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “A fair day’s work should mean a fair day’s pay. But wages are simply too low, and millions are struggling to afford the basics, even when they’re working hard.
“After the financial crisis, UK wages fell further than in any other developed country except Greece. It’s time for employers to give their staff fair pay and decent hours, while the government should lift the public sector pay cap and invest in our economy.
“And I’d encourage all working people to join a union. Unions can negotiate with employers to win better pay – union members in the private sector earn 8% more on average.”
This article was last updated at 06.10am UTC on 8 December 2016 to correct an editing error.