Work ‘key’ to anti-poverty strategy

The effectiveness of anti-poverty strategies depends heavily on boosting employment, argues a new policy paper. Policies that focus on income redistribution are not enough by themselves.

The paper is published jointly by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies and the Child Poverty Action Group. It examines why, 70 years after the Beveridge report, poverty in the UK continues to be so prevalent, and what a renewed attack on want might look like.  

Key points

  • There is nothing inevitable about poverty. Efforts to reduce it have been successful both in the UK and internationally. In the UK over the last decade the number of pensioners and children in poverty fell by over a million.
  • But a strategy to tackle poverty cannot focus solely on income redistribution. International evidence suggests the most effective countries in reducing poverty combine universalist welfare systems with high levels of employment. In countries with low child poverty rates, maternal employment is particularly important.
  • Efforts to tackle poverty in the UK need to focus on increasing maternal employment, tackling in work poverty (including through tackling high housing costs) and increasing the value of universal benefits such as child benefit.
  • The largest group affected by poverty in the UK is couples with children, and more than half of all those in poverty are in paid work. Campaigns to tackle poverty need to make clear this is not a minority issue affecting a marginalised group of people, but one that affects a group that many identify with.

Alison Garnham from CPAG added: 'There is, of course, no "silver bullet" to end child poverty but the evidence of what can work is compelling and should drive action in priority areas like maternal employment, in-work poverty and adequate benefit levels'.

Source: Kate Bell, Abolishing Want in a Social State, Centre for Labour and Social Studies/Child Poverty Action Group
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