Poverty in Scotland

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EDINBURGH, Scotland — One out of seven people living in Scotland could still be living below the poverty line by the mid-2020s, according to a new study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Currently, Scotland has an employment rate of around 73.5 percent, and if the growth rate continues to stay the same, the rate of employment could reach 80 percent by 2025. This would mean a development of around 300,000 new jobs.

However, the study said that even with high employment, the low pay and fewer working hours that the people of Scotland face could still see people living in poverty.

“Post-referendum Scotland must avoid replacing a problem of material deprivation with one of inflexible services and a lack of time,” said the co-author of the JRF study Dr. Peter Kenway. “Families short of cash are often short on time as well. Both sides of the independence campaign have to address the long term challenges faced by struggling families of finding secure work that pays sufficiently.”

The study also discovered that the increase of jobs would have a different impact depending on the type of jobs they were. If the 80 percent employment rate was reached by the creation of additional part-time jobs, the poverty rate would decrease from 19.4 percent to 16.2 percent.

However, if those new jobs were completely full time jobs, the poverty rate would decrease from the current rate to 14.6 percent.

“These scenarios highlight the challenges that Scotland must meet if poverty rates are to decrease,” said Jim McCormick, Scotland adviser to JRF. “Much higher employment would cut poverty, but jobs alone will not eliminate it while low pay and inadequate working hours remain so widespread. We need to ensure work pays enough to be a route out of poverty.”

The Scottish government stated that the report supported their stance that Scotland needed greater control over its finances in order to create a system that could support the people of Scotland.

The spokesperson added that the report shows what the consequences might be for the country if the government continued the economic system it was in.

“Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries per head in the world, but for too many people in Scotland it does not feel that way—and we need the powers of independence to help build a fairer society, including actions that address low yap and a welfare system better suited to Scotland’s needs,” said the spokesperson.

However, the JRF report did not include the efforts of the United Kingdom government to tackle the overall causes of child poverty, according to the Department of Work and Pensions.

“Under this government there are 300,000 fewer children living in relative income poverty and 100,000 fewer children in workless poor families across the UK. Based on the latest available statistics, the level of relative child poverty in Scotland has fallen by 12 percentage points since the mid-1990s and is now at its lowest level since records began,” said a DWP spokesperson. “We have just seen the largest rise in employment for over 40 years and unemployment is falling. But there is more to do—and we are getting on with that job.”

Sources: BBC, The Extra
Photo: The Guardian

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Monica Newell

Monica is a BORGEN Magazine writer based in Midlothian, Virginia.

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