Joseph Rowntree Foundation: 'More poverty in working households in Wales'
- 19 September 2013
- From the section Wales politics
There is more poverty in working households in Wales than in non-working ones, a study has claimed.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found both a "rising tide" of in-work poverty and the highest proportion of households on a low income in Britain.
The social policy research charity blamed "a low pay, no pay jobs market".
The Welsh government said it wanted to get more people into "full-time and high quality work" through its Tackling Poverty Action Plan.
On average between 2009/10 and 20011/12, 23% of people in Wales (690,000) were living in poverty - compared with 22% in England and 18% in Scotland.
Households are classed as being in relative poverty if they live on less than 60% of the median - or middle - income.
Of the people living in poverty, the report found there are more adults who have a job (285,000 on average in the three years to 2010/11) than not (275,000).
Poverty amongst people working is most prevalent in rural communities, whereas urban areas have a higher number of people living in out-of-work poverty.
As a proportion of their working-age populations, the west (Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion) and north Wales had a high share of in-work poverty, measuring 17% and 28% respectively.
The south Wales valleys (33%) and councils south of the M4, such as Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan (22%), have a higher share of out-of-work poverty.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report written by the New Policy Institute describes "a low pay, no pay jobs market that is trapping families in poverty - the working poor are the modern face of hardship in Wales".
Adam Tinson, Research Analyst at the New Policy Institute and the report's co-author, said: "Wages haven't been growing fast enough to meet rising costs and more people are in working families that work fewer hours."
"There needs to be more of a focus on low pay as well as low hours from governments in Wales and Westminster.
"Tackling poverty requires a comprehensive strategy but overcoming the frail jobs market and the demand for jobs must be the starting point," he added.
The Welsh government first launched its Tackling Poverty Action Plan in June 2012, before refreshing it a year later.
As well as helping the long-term out of work to find a job, the latest plans includes targets to rescue the number of young people who are not earning or learning and ambitions to improve the nation's health.
A commitment to improving the workforce's skills and qualifications is a priority for the Welsh government's new deputy minister for tackling poverty.
Vaughan Gething AM said: "We need to take effective intervening action that's why we want to tackle workless households. But we recognise that the Welsh government doesn't have all the levers.
"Much of what we want to see and need to see to effectively tackle poverty does rely on action the UK government takes.
"The nature of the recovery that we all want to see is one where we see more people not just in work, but in full-time work and high quality work... there's really not much future for Wales as a country as a low-wage low-skill economy and that's why education is a key strand in the tackling poverty plan," he added.
The Welsh government has opposed the UK government's plans to reduce its welfare bill by £160bn in order to encourage people to find work.
Mr Gething added: "Austerity and welfare reform are having a real impact on our ability to tackle poverty.
"But you can't just sit there and say because welfare reform is going in the wrong direction as far as we're concerned, you can't then simply say we'll sit down and do nothing - that's a council of despair and that shows a poverty of ambition from a government point of view."
Almost a quarter of people in Wales (23%) are currently living in poverty, according to the latest data - a figure that has hardly changed since devolution.
After accounting for the cost of housing, about a third of children in Wales are from homes classed as living in poverty.
Statistics released in June 2013 show the figure rose from 31% to 33%.