In an article aptly named "The Ugly Truth About Poverty in Britain", Graham Vanbergen summarises the grim findings of a 2013 report that found almost 30% of working women are earning less than the living wage. Vanbergen, writing for the Centre for Research on Globalisation, states that "nearly 50% of young people are on low wages in London, with the figure rising to 58% outside the capital. In all, this accounts for 6 million hard working people, the number jumping 19% in just four years."
The study he refers to, released 18 months ago by the Poverty and Social Exclusion group (PSE), also asserts that a third of British households cannot afford to heat their homes, while "4 million adults and children are not able to eat healthily."
PSE found that the causes stem largely from higher house prices, as well as the cost of heating and of food. While the house price issue should be unsurprising given the utter failure of the government to build enough homes, the fact that food is mentioned should send alarm bells ringing. After all, Britain is entering a period of price deflation. Could it be the case that falling shop prices makes no difference if wages are so low, and that had it not been for cheaper oil prices then the scale of the problem would be far worse?
There are some very clear policy changes that can improve the situation. These include rent control, restrictions on second homes in London, building more affordable homes that are properly insulated, and above all raising wages (i.e. not penalising the poor by ending working families' tax credits). A living wage that actually allows people to live, rather than calling it that to steal progressive language (yes Chancellor George Osborne I am calling you a thief) could go a long way to ending poverty.