Poverty and the economic downturn
Oxfam have provided a timely intervention on UK poverty and the economic downturn, highlighting how the recession is impacting both on those who were in poverty before it started and those who have recently lost their jobs. The report shows that even before the recession progress on poverty reduction had been slowing, and that recent high cost of living rises have been having a disproportionate impact on the poorest, who spend more of their budgets on essential items. The report also highlights the risk of responses to recession discriminating between the percieved ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor – and this is a real concern (and will continue to be as unemployment rises over future months). The Mail’s benefit scrouger stories are as strong as ever, focused on long-term claimants rather than the newly jobless, and it doesn’t take much searching to find evidence of public resentment between existing claimants and those who are newly unemployed.
After spending a day immersed in the hard facts of current labour market outlook it’s hard to see how such sharply rising unemployment could fail to promote a wider undertanding of the tragic concequences that losing your job can have. But I think that what I’ve taken from this report is that it’s more important than ever to keep highlighting the common experiences of all of those experiencing poverty, and not to understimate the risks of increasing economic insecurity bringing us a sharp swing to the right.