Poverty – the scale of the challenge in 2019

July 29, 2019

The Social Metrics Commission has published its latest report – Measuring Poverty 2019.  The full press release from the Commission is available here.

The report uses the most recent data available to provide a comprehensive account of poverty in the UK.  It reveals that 4.5 million people are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 7 million people are living in persistent poverty.

The 2019 report is an update on the Social Metrics Commission’s 2018 publication proposing a new measure of poverty for the country, and follows the Government’s announcement that it would develop experimental national statistics based on the approach. The report provides a detailed overview of the extent and nature of poverty in the UK today and original analysis that shows how this has changed since 2000/01.

Oliver Hilbery, Director of the MEAM coalition and member of the Social Metrics Commission said:

This latest report from the Social Metrics Commission sets out the scale of the challenge facing the new Prime Minister when it comes to tackling poverty in the UK. 

Poverty is a key driver of multiple disadvantage. It is worrying therefore that analysis in today’s report shows 4.5 million people more than 50% below the poverty line. Worse still, individuals in this group are far more likely than others in poverty to be in persistent poverty. 

It is vital that government acts to support individuals stuck in deep and persistent poverty. By adopting the Commission’s measure of poverty, government would be able to clearly track the impact of its policy decisions.

The key findings from the 2019 report are:

  • Overall poverty: 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.
  • Depth of poverty: On average, those in poverty have moved closer to the poverty line now than would have been the case in 2000/01. However, 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.
  • Persistent poverty: Just under half (49%) of those in poverty 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. This totals 7 million people, including 2.3 million children, 1.2 million people living in lone-parent families, and 1.8 million of those living in workless households.
  • Depth & persistence of poverty: Poverty persistence is particularly high for those in deep levels of poverty. Three fifths (59%) of those living more than 50% below the poverty line are also in persistent poverty, compared to just over a third (36%) of those living within 5% of the poverty line.

Resources and downloads: