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Scots poverty figures point to widening gap

16 March 2017

A widening gap between those on low and middle incomes in Scotland appears from new official figures released today. 

One of two new publications on poverty, Persistent Poverty in Scotland 2010-15, reports that a fairly constant 8% of Scots were in persistent poverty over the period between 2011 and 2015, or 9% after housing costs. However a separate report on Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2015-16 shows the incomes of poorer households falling further behind those of middle income households, pushing more people into poverty.

"Poverty rates have been relatively stable over the last decade with some fluctuations year on year", the latter staes. "However in 2015-16 the median income in Scotland fell below that in the UK and, while single year changes must be interpreted with caution, rising poverty rates alongside other indicators suggests low income households – especially families with children – are falling further behind those on middle incomes. In 2015-16 over 1m people in Scotland were in relative poverty after they had paid their housing costs."

In 2015-16, 17% of people in Scotland (880,000) were living in relative poverty, before housing costs (BHC), compared with 15% in 2014-15, or 20% (compared with 18%), or 1.05m, after housing costs.

Relative poverty means a household with income less than 60% of median net household income, adjusted for household size and composition. Persistent poverty means living in relative poverty for at least three of the last four years.

Spending brief periods with a low income is regarded as less damaging than living in poverty over a number of years.

For child poverty, the 2015-16 report says, the figures are "more complex". Estimates suggest that relative child poverty has increased before and after housing costs, but the combined low income and material deprivation rate for children has remained steady. "This suggests that despite the indicative upward push on poverty rates there has been no overall change in the ability of low income households to afford necessities."

It adds that 19% of children in Scotland (190,000) before housing costs, or 26% (260,000) after housing costs, were living in relative poverty in 2015-16, up from 17% and 22% respectively the previous year, and 10% (12% after housing costs) were living in combined low income and material deprivation, both unchanged from the previous year.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill now before Holyrood sets targets of reducing the number of children in relative poverty to below 10%, and those experiencing persistent poverty or combined low income and material deprivation to below 5%, by the 2030-31 financial year.

Today's reports also point to a long term rising trend of in-work poverty since 2009-10, with 62% of working-age adults and two thirds of children in poverty (before housing costs) living in working households, many of these households being in part-time work.

Among pensioners, 11% were in persistent poverty before housing costs between 2011 and 2015, or 7%
after housing costs.

However Scotland generally had lower persistent poverty rates when compared with other parts of the UK, especially after housing costs, where the figure across the rest of the UK was 12%.



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