“The poor are always with you” (Matthew 26:11)
Discuss the meaning of poverty in the UK today and critically assess the means by which government would tackle the problem. There are two identifiable types of poverty; there is Absolute Poverty whereby human existence itself is challenged, like the famine of Somalia and other central African states. But there is also Relative Poverty in which people cannot sustain a minimum lifestyle in relation to what is a generally accepted standard in a society. This latter type can change according to the time and place, but is currently experienced by 13.5 million people in the UK, that’s 22% of the population. However, defining exactly when a household is in poverty is not cut and dry. Currently the system is to use the Households Below Average Income Survey (HBAI) to determine how many households earn 60% or less of the average (median) British household income in that year. If a household falls below this amount then they are classed as in poverty. Before the government brings in policies to try to reduce the number of people in poverty they must first identify the causes. Due to labour market forces there is a large inequality of wages in the UK. Those with high levels of skills and qualifications will be in higher demand than those with lower skills. Therefore they will be able to earn a higher wage, and those without the high skills and qualifications will have low paid jobs or even be unemployed. Recently a variety of factors have increased wage differentials. These include: •
De-industrialisation, leading to more service sector jobs which tend to be lower paid. •
Public sector jobs have had low increases in wages compared to that of the private sector. •
Growth in part time and temporary jobs which tend to be low paid. •
Decline in trade unions leaving many workers unable to bargain for higher wages. •
Increased demand for highly skilled workers.
As state benefits are linked to inflation their relative value...
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