03 December 2007

Beyond GDP

Children living in households with income below 60% of UK median before housing costs [Credit:BBC]"They are, in a way, treating the symptoms - meanwhile, the root problems are getting worse."

Thus says one of the authors of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report claiming that one in three children in the UK is living in poverty, speaking about the Government's failing attempts to reach its 2010 target of halving child poverty. Yet, poverty is defined so that a couple with two children whose net income is less than £1300 per month after income tax and housing costs is reckoned to be poor. As someone who has never chosen a job because of its salary, I would say you can actually do quite a lot with that kind of money. It's all a question of priorities and budgeting. Now, I know we've had the debate about relative and absolute poverty before but, rather than worrying about how many televisions or foreign holidays someone can afford (not to mention expenses such as the £100 per month spent by the average 15 cigarettes-a-day smoker), I would be far more concerned about the world's ultra poor and those in this country trapped by family break-down, educational failure, economic dependence, indebtedness, and addiction.

Yes, we do need to make British poverty history, but we also need a different measure of poverty: one that factors in welfare dependency, poor skills, and family breakdown — one that measures the true state of our country's broken communities. The five "pathways to poverty" are problems that cannot be addressed simply by the Treasury, for they are not simply economic. There is, after all, more to human well-being than GDP.


Freelander said...

The problem with measuring those families who are living in 'poverty' is that every time more families are 'lifted out of poverty', the base line increases, thus putting almost the same percentage still in poverty.

I agree with families being given financial support, but only if it is spent 'wisely'. Perhaps, along with the Government's aim to improve health of the nation, the financial support should be withdrawn if the family continues to smoke their cash away!

£1300 a month? No wonder the Polish and others want to come here! It is living in clover (especially if you do not have to work 42 hours a week at a menial job to get it).

Anonymous said...

I know that money is tight but I never thought I was living close to the poverty line. If mortgage, council tax and water/gas/ electric are the measure of housing costs then that's here I am; they account for 55% of my income month by month.