The UK has a high risk of poverty by European standards
I’m sorry, this is one of those depressing posts that everyone wants to rush past, but it really does have to be marked. In 2007, of 24 countries, the UK had the EU’s 9th highest risk of poverty for people in employment, the 4th highest risk for retired people and the second highest risk for unemployed people.
The figures come from a very useful new report on In-work Poverty in the EU from Eurostat (table 1). The table below shows the proportion of workers at risk of poverty in each EU member state. The UK’s figure is 8% – higher than most West European countries.
Next, we can see a similar table for retired people. 28 per cent of retired people in the UK are at risk of poverty – the proportions are higher only in Ireland, Estonia and Latvia.
Then we have the table for unemployed people. In the UK 58 per cent of unemployed people are at risk of poverty – the proportion is higher only in Estonia.
I suppose you could put a positive slant on these figures and say that our system of in-work support (the minimum wage, tax credits and in-work benefits) does have an impact, but our position on the in-work table is frankly disgraceful. Sometimes in this country we don’t fully appreciate how badly our benefits system compares with the rest of Western Europe; it won’t be the only factor that produces these results, but it is the most important.
Top of the world, ma, top of the world.