“Persistent relative income poverty for the UK is low compared with other EU countries,” says European survey, but Retired People Continue to Suffer.

Since 2011, the UK’s poverty and persistent poverty rates have been below the EU average. Long-term trends show that since 2008, the gap between the UK and EU average persistent poverty rates has been widening – in 2008 the gap between both rates was 0.2 percentage points, meaning a high likelihood of moving from poverty to persistent poverty, whereas by 2015 the gap had widened to 3.6 percentage points.

This may not seem much but poverty in the UK is shorter lived than in most other European countries, it seems. Of those who were in poverty at least once in the 4-year period to 2015, across all EU member states the UK had the largest proportion of individuals who were in poverty for just 1 year (59.9%) and the smallest proportion who were in poverty for all 4 years (10.5%).

The UK has one of the lowest poverty to persistent poverty ratios, with more individuals who experienced 1 or 2 years of poverty (rather than 3 or 4 years of poverty) between 2012 and 2015. Of all EU countries, the UK has the largest gap between the proportion of individuals experiencing 1 year and 4 years of poverty from 2012 to 2015 (10.2 percentage points).

Hence UK citizens, who with the help of the state and the back to work system in the UK, are showing some success in climbing out of poverty once it has been experienced. Despite this,  educational attainment is linked with the persistent poverty rate, with those without any formal qualifications (below GCSE level) most at risk of persistent poverty. Increases in persistent poverty rates were observed across all levels of education but with a smaller rise in those with high levels of educational attainment.

If the picture is one of improvement in general, older people seem to be suffering more than most. In 2015 the downward trend in persistent poverty amongst the aged 65 and over population has halted with the first rise in persistent poverty rates since 2010.

An increase was also observed for those aged 18 to 64 compared with 2014, which appears to have added to an increase in the overall persistent poverty rate.

Commenting on the figures showing that the rate of persistent poverty for over 65s rose from 9.1% in 2014 to 9.8% in 2015, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Claims that pensioners have been doing much better than everyone else are wide of the mark. Persistent poverty is higher for pensioners than other adults, and growing.

“That’s why we should keep the triple lock and make sure the state pension keeps going up. It will help the current generation of pensioners, and make it more likely that a decent standard of living awaits today’s workers when they retire.”


 Additional points

Material deprivation is a measure of whether or not households have the capacity to afford a set of nine essential items, the idea being that not being able to afford several of these items would indicate a deprived household who are at risk of social exclusion.

The nine important items were chosen based on the idea they are somewhat “essential” in modern everyday life and include:

·         to not have arrears on your mortgage or rent payments, hire purchase instalments or other loan payments

·         to afford a 1-week annual holiday away from home

·         to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every other day

·         to be able to face unexpected financial expenses

·         to afford a telephone or mobile phone

·         to afford a colour television

·         to afford a washing machine

·         to afford a car

·         to afford to keep the home adequately warm

The EU’s main indicator of material deprivation is the severe material deprivation rate, which describes the proportion of individuals in the population who are unable to afford four or more of these essential items. In 2015, the UK’s severe material deprivation rate was 6.1%.

For those individuals in poverty or experiencing longer-term poverty, higher rates of severe material deprivation were observed. In 2015, of those in poverty, 16.3% of individuals were severely materially deprived while of those experiencing persistent poverty, 27.4% were severely materially deprived. These increases in severe material deprivation rates are consistent with the idea that the capacity to afford essential items decreases as individuals experience longer terms of poverty.