Four million Brits living on 'inadequate income'

15 February 2017

Four million people in Britain are living on an inadequate income and “just about managing” according to a new study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

However, with inflation rising and forecasts suggesting that living costs could be 10% higher by 2020, the report warns that millions of ‘just about managing’ families could easily slip into poverty over the coming years.

The JRF report shows how households are faring financially by comparing their income against the ‘minimum income standard (MIS)’ benchmark. This benchmark varies depending on your circumstances – for example, it stands at £17,100 a year for a single person with no children, and at £37,800 a year for a couple with two children.

According to the JRF, between 2008/09 and 2014/15, those living below the MIS rose from 15 million to 19 million – or from 25% to 30% of the population. The number of people that live on less than 75% of the MIS also rose from 9.1 million to 11 million over the same time frame.

JRF says that the increase in people struggling to get by is down to stagnating incomes and rising costs – with the price of a ‘basket of goods’ increasing by close to 30% since 2008 and earnings going up by less than half that amount.


With state support in the shape of tax credits and working age benefits frozen, JRF claims that the growing risk of poverty won’t be down to unemployment, but working people not having sufficient income.

Prospects were worse for working families. For lone parents – even those in full time work – there is a 42% chance of living below the MIS, a figure that has risen from 28% since 2008/09. For families with one parent at work there is a 56% chance, an increase of a third over the period. Where one parent works full time and the other part time or self-employed there is an 18% risk of living below the MIS – a figure that has increased by half over the six years of the study.

‘Stark figures show how precarious life can be’

Commenting on the report, Campbell Rob, chief executive at JRF says: “For a truly shared society, everyone should have the chance to live a decent and secure life. These stark figures show just how precarious life can be for many families. Government focus on people on modest incomes is welcome, but it cannot be at the expense of those at the poorest end of the income scale: it must remember just about managing today can become poverty tomorrow.

“This could be a very difficult time for just managing families as rising inflation begins to bite into finely-balanced budgets. The high cost of living has already helped push four million more people below an adequate income, and if the cost of essentials such as food, energy and housing rise further, we need to take action to ease the strain. The government can help in next month’s budget by allowing families to keep more of their earnings and ensuring benefits and tax credits keep up with the rising cost of living.”

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