“60% of the people that are in poverty at the moment […] are in work.”
During an appearance on BBC Politics Live last month , Dame Angela Eagle MP claimed that 60% of people in poverty are in work.
This is not quite right. While studies show that about 60% of people in relative poverty live in households where at least one adult is in work, the most recent data shows the number of working age adults who are in poverty and who are also in work is substantially lower than this figure.
If an MP makes a false or misleading claim on broadcast media they should take responsibility for ensuring it is appropriately corrected, and make efforts to ensure the correction is publicly available to anyone who might have heard the claim.
It is an MP’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent anyone else from being misled by their claim and to ensure anyone who already heard the claim is aware that it has subsequently been corrected.
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The two commonly used measures of poverty based on disposable income are:
- Relative low income: This refers to people living in households with income below 60% of the median in that year.
- Absolute low income: This refers to people living in households with income below 60% of median income in a base year, usually 2010/11. This measurement is adjusted for inflation.
These income figures can also be taken either before or after the cost of housing has been deducted.
It's possible that Dame Angela had in mind figures from the 2023 UK Poverty Report compiled by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). This found that 61% of people in relative poverty after housing costs live in households where at least one adult is in work.
This report is based on 2020/21 data and the JRF told Full Fact that the 2021/22 government figures show the number of people living in relative poverty (after housing costs) in a household where at least one adult is in work has since declined slightly to 59%.
When looking only at the figures for working age adults in poverty and who are also in work (rather than in a household with one or more people in work), the figure drops again to 44%, the JRF said. This is significantly lower than the figure quoted by Dame Angela.
In addition, the same data can be used to examine in-work poverty in different ways:
- 64% of working-age people in poverty were in a working household
- 25% of people (including children and pensioners) in poverty were in work
- 36% of adults (including pensioners) in poverty were in work
We have written to Dame Angela and will update this article if we receive a response.
Image courtesy of the Houses of Parliament