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Volume 508: debated on Monday 29 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the change has been in the number of (1) adults of working age in households below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income estimated (a) before and (b) after housing costs between 1996-97 and the latest year for which figures are available; (322152)

(2) pensioners in households below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income estimated (a) before and (b) after housing costs between 1996-97 and the latest year for which figures are available;

(3) children living in households with below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income estimated (a) before and (b) after housing costs between 1996-97 and the latest year for which figures are available.

[holding answer 12 March 2010]: The Government strongly believe that the best way to tackle adult poverty is through work. Those in work in the long term are better off than on benefits as training, promotion and career opportunities can enable many workers to attain a better standard of living for themselves and their families. We are therefore placing an increased priority on helping all groups of people, including disabled people and those with health conditions, lone parents and long term unemployed people get into rewarding and sustainable jobs.

Relative working age poverty (BHC) has increased over the last decade. However the risk of poverty for working age adults is still below that for children or pensioners (15 per cent. as compared with 23 per cent. for both children and pensioners) and the risk of persistent poverty for this group is also lower than average at 7 per cent. For this reason the Government have targeted additional financial support on families with children and pensioners.

However, the Government remain committed to ensuring employment and opportunity for all and believe that work, for those who can, remains the best and most sustainable route out of poverty. Over the last decade we have improved the gains to work with the introduction of the national minimum wage and the extension of tax credits and we have invested in employment support to ensure people are not written off. The Government are also supporting people through the difficult economic climate, setting aside £5 billion to help people back into work.

The Government’s declared aim is to eradicate child poverty by 2020. Our determination to do so is as firm as ever and this is demonstrated by introducing the Child Poverty Bill. The Child Poverty Bill will bring new impetus to eradicating child poverty by 2020. It will provide a definition of success and sets a framework to guarantee that Government and their partners at national and local levels make a clear and vital contribution towards ending child poverty.

Between 1998-99 and 2007-08 some 500,000 children were lifted out of relative poverty. Measures announced in and since Budget 2007 are expected to lift around a further 550,000 children out of poverty. Absolute poverty has been halved.

Addressing pensioner poverty has been a priority for this Government. We have targeted help on the poorest pensioners, those who need it most, while providing a solid foundation of support for all.

We have made good progress in tackling pensioner poverty. Targeted support, such as pension credit and additional funding for all pensioners has contributed to 900,000 fewer pensioners in relative poverty (measured as below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income after housing costs) in 2007-08 than in 1998-99.

The available information is given in the table.

The latest available information covers 2007-08. Figures covering the UK are most commonly used. However, for 1996-97, only information for Great Britain is available. This means the changes in the numbers of various groups below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income between 1996-97 and 2007-08 can only be calculated for Great Britain.

Change between 1996-97 and 2007-08 in the numbers of working-age adults, pensioners and children in households with incomes below 60 per cent. of median incomes and proportion of working-age adults, pensioners and children in such households in 2007-08, before housing costs (BHC) and after housing costs (AHC), Great Britain (millions)


Working-age adults








Change 1996-97 to 2007-08 (millions)







Proportion of group in low income households in 2007-08 (per cent.)








1. These statistics are based on households below average income, sourced from the Family Resources Survey. Both of these documents are available in the Library.

2. Small changes should be treated with caution as these will be affected by sampling error and variability in non-response.

3. The reference period for households below average income figures are single financial years.

4. These statistics cover Great Britain only as figures are only available covering the United Kingdom from 1998-99.

5. The income measures used to derive the estimates shown employ the same methodology as the Department for Work and Pensions publication ‘Households Below Average Income’ series, which uses disposable household income, adjusted (or ‘equivalised’) for household size and composition, as an income measure as a proxy for standard of living.

6. For the households below average income series, incomes have been equivalised using organisation for economic co-operation and development equivalisation factors.

7. The number of working-age adults, pensioners and children have been rounded to the nearest hundred thousand individuals.


Households Below Average Income, DWP.