United Kingdom

Working-age adults in low income

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • At around a fifth in 2008/09, the proportion of working-age adults who are in low-income households is now slightly higher than at any time since the mid-1990s.
  • Inner London has a much higher proportion of working-age adults in low-income households than any other region (28% compared with an average for the United Kingdom as a whole of 21%).
  • See the indicators on low income by work status, low income by disability and low income by age.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Whilst the government has targets for reducing the prevalence of low income among children, it has no equivalent targets for working-age adults (except to the extent that they are parents). There is therefore a danger that government policy neglects the issue of low-income among working-age adults.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the risk of a working-age adult being in a low-income household.

The second graph shows how the risk of working-age adults being in low-income households varies by region.

The data source for both graphs is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).   Income is disposable household income after deducting housing costs and the low-income threshold is the same as that used elsewhere, namely 60% of contemporary median household income.  All the data is equivalised (adjusted) to account for differences in household size and composition.  The self-employed are included in the statistics.  Note that in 2007 DWP made some technical changes to how it adjusted household income for household composition (including retrospective changes) and, as a result, the data is slightly different than previously published figures.  The averaging over three-year periods has been done to improve statistical reliability.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  The FRS is a well-established annual government survey, designed to be representative of the population as a whole.

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Halve the number of children in poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020.

Lead department

HM Treasury.

Official national targets

Reduce by a half the number of children living in relative low-income by 2010/11.

Other indicators of progress

Number of children in absolute low-income households.

Number of children in relative low-income households and in material deprivation.

Previous 2004 targets

Halve the number of children in relative low-income households between 1998/99 and 2010/11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020, including:

  • reducing the proportion of children in workless households by 5% between spring 2005 and spring 2008; and
  • increasing the proportion of parents with care on Income Support and income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance who receive maintenance for their children by 65% by March 2008.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Working-age adults
All With dependent children Without dependent children
1994/95 20% 26% 17%
1995/96 20% 26% 16%
1996/97 21% 27% 17%
1997/98 20% 26% 16%
1998/99 20% 26% 15%
1999/00 20% 26% 16%
2000/01 19% 25% 16%
2001/02 19% 24% 15%
2002/03 19% 24% 16%
2003/04 19% 23% 16%
2004/05 19% 23% 16%
2005/0620% 25% 18%
2006/0720% 25% 18%
2007/0821% 26% 18%
2008/0921% 26% 19%

Graph 2

East19%
East Midlands21%
inner London28%
outer London24%
North East24%
North West22%
Northern Ireland18%
Scotland19%
South East17%
South West19%
Wales22%
West Midlands23%
Yorkshire and The Humber21%