Poorer families in full-time jobs ‘need eight-day week to escape poverty’

An eight-day working week would be needed for an average low-income family where parents are in full-time employment to escape poverty, a charity has claimed.

Action for Children said its research challenges the “myth that work alone is a passport out of poverty”.

It referred to a comment in Parliament by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on working households following the autumn statement and said its analysis counters this thinking.

Mr Sunak had said: “We do not want any child to grow up in poverty, and the best way to achieve that is to ensure that they do not grow up in a workless household.”

A household is considered to be in relative poverty if it is below 60% of the median income after housing costs.

The charity’s calculations – based on working at least six hours a day and using figures from the Government’s UK Family Resources Survey – suggested that on average, poorer households in full-time employment would need to work an additional 19 hours a week to break through the poverty line.

When it comes to earnings, the charity said the average low-income family where every parent worked full-time would need a weekly pay rise of £168 (£8,736 more a year) to clear the poverty line.

The analysis suggested low-income parents in full-time work were more likely to be in caring, leisure and other service or elementary occupations such as cleaning, and less likely to be in professional roles compared to the wider population.

The charity said almost one in four low-income parents in full-time work (23%) were employed in the health and social work sector.

It also found that of the 296,000 families in poverty where all the parents were in full-time work, almost half were single-parent families, around a fifth lived in London, and 22% were from black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic groups.

Rishi Sunak (Dan Kitwood/PA)
The charity said the figures challenge comments made by Rishi Sunak after the Prime Minister said the best way to get children out of poverty is to ensure they don’t grow up in ‘workless’ households (Dan Kitwood/PA)

Action for Children chief executive, Paul Carberry, said: “Our research shows we need to be honest about why so many children are growing up poor and confront the myth that work alone is a passport out of poverty.

“In this election year, this is something all political parties must address.

“Further research is needed into the financial challenges facing these working families so we can find more targeted and effective solutions.

“This should be part of a wider programme of reform that strengthens the social security system and tackles the barriers to work and opportunity that are keeping families trapped in poverty.”

A Government spokesperson said: “There are 1.7 million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared to 2010, including 400,000 children, as we continue to support families with cost-of-living support worth on average £3,700 per household.

“Children are five times less likely to experience poverty living in a household where all adults work, compared to those in workless households, which is why this Government has reduced the number of workless households by almost 700,000 since 2010.

“We know work is the best route out of poverty which is why we have also raised the National Living Wage and are investing billions through our Back to Work Plan to break down barriers to work, while expanding our childcare offer and investing in children’s health programmes to make sure children get the best start in life.”

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