Subjects on this page:
- The most commonly used threshold of low income is a household income that is 60% or less of the average (median) British household income in that year. For a discussion of why this is the most commonly used threshold, see the page on choices of low-income thresholds. The latest year for which household income data is available is 2008/09. In that year, the 60% threshold was worth: £119 per week for single adult with no dependent children; £206 per week for a couple with no dependent children; £202 per week for a single adult with two dependent children under 14; and £288 per week for a couple with two dependent children under 14. These sums of money are measured after income tax, council tax and housing costs have been deducted, where housing costs include rents, mortgage interest (but not the repayment of principal), buildings insurance and water charges. They therefore represent what the household has available to spend on everything else it needs, from food and heating to travel and entertainment.
- In 2008/09, 13½ million people in the UK were living in households below this low-income threshold. This is around a fifth (22%) of the population.
- This 13½ million figure is an increase of 1½ million compared with four years previously, 2004/05. The increases over the last four years follow six uninterrupted years of decreases from 1998/1999 to 2004/05 and are the first increases since 1996/97.
- The number of people on low incomes is still lower (just) than it was during the early 1990s but is much greater than in the early 1980s.
- The proportions of children and pensioners who are in low-income households are both lower than a decade ago. In contrast, the proportion for working-age adults without dependent children is a bit higher. A third of all people in low-income households are now working-age adults without dependent children, and the majority of these are single adults rather than couples.
- Around a third of all disabled adults aged 25 to retirement are living in low-income households. This is twice the rate of that for non-disabled adults. The main reason why so many disabled people are in low-income households is their high levels of worklessness. A graduate with a work-limiting disability is more likely to be lacking but wanting work than an unqualified person with no disability.
- Among working-age adults in low income, more than half now live in families where someone is in paid work.
- The level of Income Support for both pensioners and families with two or more children has gone up faster than average earnings since the late 1990s, but that for working-age adults without children has fallen considerably behind.
- Half of all people in social housing are in low-income households compared to one in seven of those in other housing tenures.
- Inner London is deeply divided: it has by far the highest proportion of people in low income but also a high proportion of people on a high income.
- Over the last decade, the poorest tenth of the population have, on average, seen a fall in their real incomes after deducting housing costs. This is in sharp contrast with the rest of the income distribution, which, on average, has seen substantial rises in their real incomes. The richest tenth of the population have seen much bigger proportional rises in their incomes than any other group.
- More than half of all low-income households are paying full Council Tax, noticeably higher than in the mid-1990s.
- The UK has a higher proportion of its population in relative low income than most other EU countries: of the 27 EU countries, only 4 have a higher rate than the UK. The proportion of people living in relative low income in the UK is twice that of the Netherlands and one-and-a-half times that of France.
- The number of children living in low-income households was 3.9 million in 2008/09 (measuring income after deducting housing costs). The government’s short term child poverty target was to reduce the number of children in low-income households by a quarter by 2004/05 compared with 1998/99. This implied a maximum of 3.3 million children living in low-income households by 2004/05. Given that the actual number in 2008/09 was 3.9 million, the government is still 0.6 million above its 2004/05 target.
- Children are more likely to live in low-income households as adults.
- A half of all lone parents are in low income, more than twice the rate for couples with children.
- More than half of all the children in low-income households have someone in their family doing paid work.
- Tax credits now help more than a million children in working families out of low income but the number needing such help has risen sharply.
- Although the number of children who are in workless households is somewhat lower than a decade ago, the UK still has a higher proportion than any other EU country.
- Until the last few years, the proportion of pensioners living in low-income households had been falling sharply, from 29% of all pensioners in 1997/98 to 17% in 2005/06. There has, however, been no significant reduction since 2005/06. Pensioners now account for just one sixth of all the people in low-income households.
- A third of all pensioner households entitled to Pension Credit are not claiming it.
- The proportion of people aged 75 and over who receive home care to help them live at home has almost halved since the mid-1990s. County councils and unitary authorities support far fewer households than either urban or Welsh authorities.
- In 2010, there were 4.7 million people of working age who wanted to be in paid work but were not. The number has been rising since 2005, when it stood at 3.4 million. Only half of these people are officially unemployed, with the others being considered to be ‘economically inactive’, either because they are able to started work immediately or because they are not actively seeking work. Lone parents and those who are sick or disabled usually count as ‘economically inactive’ rather than ‘unemployed’.
- Until 2008, the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits had been falling steadily. Between February 2008 and February 2010, however, numbers rose sharply, back to the levels of a decade previously. All of this rise was in the number of unemployed claimants, which, by February 2010, was actually substantially higher than a decade previously. The number of sick or disabled claimants remained unchanged.
- One in four adults with a work-limiting disability are not working but want to. This compares with one in fifteen of those with no work-limiting disability. At all levels of qualification, the proportion of people with a work-limiting disability who lack but want paid work is much greater than for those without a work-limiting disability.
- In 2010, the unemployment rate among young adults aged 16 to 24 was 25%. This proportion has been rising since 2004, when it was 12%.
- Throughout most of the last decade, around two-fifths of those losing their job had had that job for less than six months. Only a quarter of temporary employees do not want a permanent job.
- People without qualifications are three times less likely to receive job-related training compared with those with some qualifications.
- Around 3½ million adults aged 22 to retirement were paid less than £7 per hour in 2010. Two-thirds of these were women and more than half were part-time workers.
- The proportion of workers aged 22 and over who were low paid fell between 2002 and 2005 but has remained broadly unchanged since then.
- Though still substantial, the pay gap between low-paid men and low-paid women is less than a decade ago.
- A quarter of workers earning less than £7 per hour work in the public sector.
- The lower a person’s qualifications, the more likely they are to be low paid. For example, half of employees aged 25 to 29 with no GCSES at grade C or above were paid less than £7 per hour in 2009 compared to one in ten of those with degrees or equivalent. All levels of qualifications appear to make a noticeable difference compared with the level below.
- In 2010, just one in nine employees earning £7 an hour or less belonged to a trade union, a much smaller proportion than for those with higher hourly earnings.
- One in six working-age households are now in receipt of tax credits over and above the (non-means tested) family element. In total, three times as many households are now in receipt of tax credits compared with a decade ago.
- 11-year-olds: over the last decade, the proportion of 11 year-olds not reaching level 4 at Key Stage 2 has fallen from 25% to 19% for English, and from 28% to 20% in Maths. These proportions are also falling for schools with a high number of children from deprived backgrounds, from more than 40% to around 30% for both English and Maths.
- 16-year olds: 7% of pupils in England obtained fewer than 5 GCSEs or equivalent in 2009/10. This proportion has fallen in each year since 2004/05. By contrast, the proportion between the late 1990s and the early 2000s had remained unchanged.
- One in ten 16- to 18-year-olds are not in education, employment or training.
- The number of permanent exclusions has fallen by a third over the last six years.
- Health inequalities associated with class, income or deprivation are pervasive and can be found in all aspects of health, from infant death to the risk of mental ill-health. The limited information on progress over time (infant death, low birthweight) shows no sign that they are shrinking.
- Men aged 25-64 from routine or manual backgrounds are twice as likely to die as those from managerial or professional backgrounds and there are also sizeable differences for women. Scotland has by far the highest proportion of premature deaths for both men and women.
- Adults in the poorest fifth of the income distribution are much more likely to be at risk of developing a mental illness as those on average incomes.
- Two-fifths of adults aged 45-64 on below-average incomes have a limiting long-standing illness or disability, more than twice the rate for those on above-average incomes.
- Children from manual social backgrounds are 35% more likely to die as infants than children from non-manual social backgrounds.
- Babies from manual social backgrounds are somewhat more likely to be of low birthweight than those from non-manual social backgrounds.
- Teenage motherhood is eight times as common amongst those from manual social backgrounds as for those from professional backgrounds.
- 5-year-olds in Wales and Scotland have, on average, more than twice as many missing, decayed or filled teeth as 5-year-olds in the West Midlands.
- Both burglaries and violent crimes have halved over the last decade.
- Households with no household insurance are more than three times as likely to be burgled as those with insurance. Half of those on low income do not have any household insurance compared with one in five households on average incomes.
- 5% of people live in overcrowded conditions. Overcrowding is four times as prevalent in social rented housing as in owner-occupation.
- The number of newly homeless households has fallen by three-quarters since 2003. Although most prevalent London and the West Midlands, homelessness is to be found throughout the country.
- Although now rising sharply, the number of new social housing dwellings over the last decade has been well below that required to keep up with demographic change.
- Although poorer households remain more likely to lack central heating, the proportion who did so in 2003/04 (the latest data available) was actually less than that for households on average incomes in 1999/00.
- A third of homes in England were classified as non-decent in 2008.
- Both overall and among those in low income, single-person households are much more likely to be in fuel poverty than other household types.
- The number of mortgage re-possessions fell in 2010, having risen sharply in the period from 2004 to 2009.
- Around a third of all disabled adults aged 25 to retirement are living in low-income households. This is twice the rate of that for non-disabled adults.
- The main reason why so many disabled people are in low-income households is their high levels of worklessness. 60% of disabled working-age adults are not in paid work compared to only 15% of their non-disabled counterparts. A third of these people – 1 million people – say that they want to work but that they have not been able to find a job.
- At all levels of qualification, the proportion of disabled people who lack, but want, paid work is much greater than for their non-disabled counterparts.
- Three-quarters of working-age people receiving a key out-of-work benefit for two years or more are sick or disabled.
- Two-fifths of all adults aged 45-64 on below-average incomes have a limiting longstanding illness or disability, more than twice the rate for those on above-average incomes.
- Two-fifths of people from ethnic minorities live in low-income households, twice the rate for White people.
- For all ethnic groups, the proportion of people who are in low-income households is slightly lower than a decade ago.
- Within this, there are big variations by ethnic group. For example, more than half of people from Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic backgrounds live in low-income households. By contrast, 20% of people from White ethnic backgrounds live in low-income households, as do 30% of people from Indian and Black Caribbean ethnic backgrounds .
- The differences are particularly great for families where at least one adult is in paid work: in these families, around 65% of Bangladeshis, 50% of Pakistanis and 30% of Black Africans are in low-income households, much higher than the 10-20% for White British, White Other, Indians and Black Caribbeans.
- A quarter of working-age Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Black African households are workless.
- Around a third of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are not in paid work and say that they do not want paid work, a much higher proportion than that for any other ethnic group. Most Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are not in paid work.
- Almost half of all Bangladeshis and Pakistanis earn less than £7 per hour. Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have both the lowest work rates and, once in work, the highest likelihood of low pay.
- At both 11 and 16, deprived White British boys are more likely to fail to reach educational thresholds than either deprived White British girls or deprived boys or girls from any other ethnic group.
- Black Caribbean pupils are three times as likely to be excluded from school as White pupils.
- Black young adults are four times as likely as white young adults to be in prison.