Work and low pay

On both the right and left, many view paid employment as the solution to poverty. Work has a range of benefits: it provides not just income but also the chance to improve skills, to develop networks, and the opportunity to act as a good role model for children. However, work does not always prove to be the answer to poverty that many claim it can be. Two thirds of poor children have at least one parent in work.

Even two parents working full-time on the minimum wage still fall 12% short of the minimum cost of bringing up their family.

In a period of economic downturn jobs are often few and far between. Without adequate and appropriate employment opportunities, work cannot be a solution to poverty. Even in more buoyant times, there are some groups of people who find it harder to enter the workforce such as people with disabilities or those with caring responsibilities. Finally, many in work discover their jobs are so low-paid or insecure that they are unable to provide an income sufficient to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

While jobs must be a critical dimension of any programme to end child poverty, the following pages show that issues of adequacy, access and the quality of jobs must be addressed if families are to work their way out of poverty.