Are most working age people in poverty also in work?

Published: 19th Jul 2017

In brief


55% of people in poverty are in working households.


55% of working age people in poverty were in a working family, according to estimates from 2015/16.


3.8 million people in work are living in poverty.


This is the estimated number in relative poverty in 2014/15. Newer figures since put the figure slightly lower.

Claim 1 of 2

"One in eight workers in the UK, that is 3.8 million people in work, are now living in poverty. 55% of people in poverty are in working households."

Jeremy Corbyn, 19 July 2017

These figures are roughly correct, although we’ve found more recent figures showing slightly fewer workers in poverty than is being claimed.

Labour pointed us to a report from last year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which used official data showing that 3.8 million workers in the UK were in relative poverty in 2014/15.

But this isn’t the latest data, so we went digging for more.

Starting from the top

There were just over 38 million working age adults in the UK, in 2015/16. Most of them were in families where at least one person is in work (‘working families’) and most of them are not in poverty.

Here’s how they break down according to the relative poverty measure (the figures differ a little on different measures). According to the estimates, nearly 29 million adults are both out of poverty and in a working family. 4 million are in a workless family but still out of poverty. Meanwhile, 3.2 million are in a working family but also in poverty. And 2.6 million are both in a workless family and in poverty.

We made a table to set that out more clearly:

This shows, for example, that most adults in relative poverty (55%) are actually in a working family, as Jeremy Corbyn said this afternoon. At the same time, adults in working families are much less likely to be in relative poverty than those from workless families.

That 3.2 million adults in poverty from a working family rises to 4.6 million if you add in housing costs.

As we’ve looked at before, over time people in poverty are increasingly likely to be in work, although the trend has flattened in recent years.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of Prime Minister's Questions. Read the roundup.


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