Escaping in-work poverty: who needs to do what to support progression?

By Katie Schmuecker


11 07 2018


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Work should provide a route out of poverty, but in our country, eight million people in poverty live in a working household.

Families with children are the most likely to be locked in poverty despite being in work, and the risk of in-work poverty has increased for them since 2010 – especially lone parents. Families earning more by progressing in work would help right the wrong of in-work poverty, but just 1 in 6 people on low pay escape to higher pay over 10 years.  Supporting progression is a crucial part of the answer.

This means thinking about the services that will support people to progress – such as careers advice, training and access to affordable childcare and transport. There is a lot we don’t know about what works here, which is why it’s so important to trial and evaluate approaches, as the Oldham Career Advancement Service and the Step Up project in London seek to.

But there must also be jobs to move into.  Some employers are actively thinking about how to open up opportunities to their low paid staff to get on, finding their efforts rewarded with lower staff turnover and increased commitment. Business in the Community have developed resources to help build a business case for action and to inspire employers, while a group of retailers have been pioneering new approaches to job design to make good flexible jobs more accessible.

Finally, working parents should be able to keep more of what they earn by increasing the work allowance in Universal Credit.  This would help more working parents to build a better life for themselves and their children.

Katie Schmuecker, Head of Policy, Joseph Rowntree Foundation