As I was saying, it's not the unemployment that gets you down, it's the poverty. And we're now officially living on poverty income. Though it doesn't feel like it. Why not? Let's take a look at the figures, shall we?
Relative poverty, or low income, in the UK is 60% or less of the average (median) British household income in that year, measured after income tax, national insurance, council tax, rents, mortgage interest, buildings insurance and water charges have been deducted. It's therefore based on what a household has to spend on everything else it needs, from food, clothing, light and heating to travel and entertainment.
In 2008/09, 13.5 million people, 22% of the population in the UK were living in households below the 60% threshold. That is a fuck of a lot of people and these are official figures used by the government for poverty in the UK, don't forget. So why hasn't there been a revolution?
Let's see what under 60% of the average couple's income of £343 per week looks like for a couple like us who are non-smokers, home drinkers at weekends and home broadband users at a minimum (because the government want us all online, of course).
60% means we get to run a car, have Sky (as we love Mr Murdoch's service), save up for repairs and renewals and have a holiday abroad.
55% means we get to run a car, have Sky (as we love Mr Murdoch's service), save up for repairs and renewals and have one holiday in the UK.
50% means we get to run a car, have Sky (as we love Mr Murdoch's service), save up for repairs and renewals and have no holidays.
45% means we get to run a car, have Sky (as we love Mr Murdoch's service), not save up for repairs and renewals and have no holidays.
40% means we have no car, no Sky (even though we love Mr Murdoch's service), not save up for repairs and renewals and have no holidays.
At the moment, in our circumstances, I'm budgeting for 45-50%. We'll see how it goes.
40% is about the level of jobseekers' allowance for a couple, assuming housing costs are paid for by the state.
The number of people in the 50-60% range, the reasonably well-off low-income people, has remained stable in the range of 4 to 4.8 million between 1979 and 2009. The 40-50%, not particularly well-off low-income people, have had more of a rocky ride and are up from 2 million in 1979 to 3.5 million in 2009. But the poor sods on 40% or less have rocketed from 1.3 million to 5.9 million (up from 2.4% of the population to 9.8%).
I know the Tories like to create poor people, but surely New Labour did a Hell of a lot for the less-well-off, I hear you say.
Well, New Labour took two million people out of the 40-60% range but added nearly a million to the under 40%s.
So when a government says they want to get people out of poverty, they mean relative poverty and they mean getting those who are pretty well off in the scheme of things to above 60% of average income. If they were serious about giving the poorest people a bit of a life they'd increase benefits by at least 15-20%, double the pathetic minimum wage and make sure everybody is living in reasonable housing conditions.
Next I'll be looking at single people on the dole and the incredible Minimum Income Standard funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
*all figures for the above from www.poverty.org.uk