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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 23:52 GMT
'Progress made' in war on poverty
A slum in Birmingham
Work aimed at alleviating poverty is having mixed results
The government is making progress in reducing child and pensioner poverty, a report by a leading think-tank says.

But the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the number of young single working people living in poverty had increased.

The number of families with incomes below the poverty line fell to 12.4m from 14m between 1996/7 and 2002/3.

And the number of children in poor households fell over the same period from 4.3m to 3.6m, with pensioners in the same situation down by 500,000.

Allowing for tax credit changes introduced in April 2003, the Foundation said that suggests the government might reach its short-term target of reducing child poverty by a quarter at the end of this year.

But the figures still add up to 22% of the population living in households with net incomes below the poverty line.

And the number of working-age adults without dependent children living in poor households increased by 300,000 to 3.9 million in the period of the study, which was carried out for the JRF by the New Policy Institute.

There has been much less success in reducing the numbers of people who are economically inactive but want paid work
Guy Palmer
Director of the New Policy Institute
The report also revealed that seven million workers earn less than 6.50 an hour - four million of them women.

Two-fifths of that number work in the distribution, hotel and restaurant sector, with a further quarter in the public sector.

Low pay is particularly high among young people without academic qualifications.

Of the working people between the ages of 25 and 29 who lack A-levels or the equivalent, half earn below 6.50 an hour.

This reflects increases in Income Support for childless adults below retirement age only rising in line with prices for the past decade and falling increasingly far behind earnings.

Much less success

The number of people recorded as "unemployed" on official measures halved over the decade to around 850,000.

Adults "economically inactive but wanting work" also declined, but by only a seventh to 1.5 million.

Long-term unemployment for more than two years has fallen by five-sixths to just 70,000, while the number of long-term sick and disabled claiming out of work benefits has rocketed by a third since 1996 to reach 2.4 million.

The figure of 12.4m people living in poverty in 2002/3 is down on the 14m who lived in low-income households in 1996/7.

Guy Palmer, director of the New Policy Institute and co-author of the report, said: "There has been substantial success over the last decade in reducing child and pensioner poverty, and unemployment.

"There has been much less success in reducing the numbers of people who are economically inactive but want paid work, as well as long-term worklessness due to sickness and disability, and poverty among childless, working-age households."

The overall level of poverty is falling

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