Analysing The Political Economy

UK Child Poverty Rises Fastest in 30 Years

Poverty is the absolute metric upon which any country, rich or poor, can understand if it is incapable of managing its resources to that of its people. Some countries simply can’t achieve it for all sorts of reasons: climate change, war, politics and much more. But wealthy developed countries should not be in such as state that poverty is rising, even in post-pandemic 2024.

The latest data available now shows that in the UK, the share of children living in absolute poverty has risen by its highest rate in 30 years. Of course, this subsequently triggers the usual outcry from charities which call upon the government to urgently overhaul its welfare policy. Nothing will change until a change of government (and therefore policy) occurs – and even then, it takes a decade to see tangible results. The poor and those left behind in poverty not only tend to get stuck there, but they have almost no voice, especially as the majority do not vote.

Depending on the calculation and what you read, the UK is the 6th wealthiest economy in the world. As a country, it is listed as 80th in terms of landmass, 22nd in terms of population, and 2nd in terms of education. It is alarming that in just over ten years, Britain’s health system, which consistently ranked inside the top 10 systems in the world, has now fallen to 34th place.

Inequality, one of the most dangerous metrics to that of democracy, is poverty. According to Department for Work and Pensions figures published yesterday, some 25 per cent of children in 2022-23 were living below the poverty line, up from 23.8 per cent the previous year, representing the largest annual increase since records began in 1994-95. Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the data was “shocking” and that anything short of scrapping the two-child limit and increasing child benefits would be “a betrayal of Britain’s children”.

Material deprivation, a measurement of individuals’ ability to afford a range of everyday goods and services, has also risen compared with before the pandemic.

The data showed that income fell last year for all but the top 20 per cent of earners, demonstrating rising inequality.  This was demonstrated by the data confirming that the largest reductions appeared in the poorest households.

Sam Ray-Chaudhuri, research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank, said: “Given the double whammy of Covid and the cost of living crisis, it may not come as a shock that this parliament is on course to be one of the worst ever for growth in household incomes.

Absolute poverty has been broadly falling for decades all across advanced economies, the UK included. However, the latest data shows a rapid change in direction, with the share of children now below the poverty line increasing by 318,000 to more than 3.6mn.

Poverty rates are also expected to continue to rise further as more families are affected by the two-child limit, which only applies to children born after April 2017.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of charity Unicef UK, said – “While other policies can have an indirect impact on child poverty, removing the two-child limit was crucial to “shift the dial. If we want to have a greater impact quickly, then it’s the big policy decisions around transfers that are important.”




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