Fighting Working Poverty in Post-industrial Economies

Fighting Working Poverty in Post-industrial Economies

Causes, Trade-offs and Policy Solutions

Eric Crettaz

This thought-provoking book provides an in-depth analysis of the working poor phenomenon and its causes across welfare regimes, and identifies the most efficient policy mixes and best practices that could be utilized to resolve this problem.

Chapter 2: Arbitrary Definitions, Official Definitions and Useful Typologies

Eric Crettaz

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, labour policy


When defining working poverty, obviously, two definitional issues need to be dealt with: how to define poverty and, perhaps more importantly, how to define work and where to set a threshold in terms of the amount of work performed. 2.1 WHAT IS ‘POVERTY’ IN RICH COUNTRIES? Ongoing controversies and hard-fought debates have taken place ever since the founding fathers of applied poverty research released their first reports (Booth, 1888; Rowntree, 1901 [1980]), and it seems that the worst forms of poverty have virtually been eradicated in rich countries. Some may even think that poverty no longer exists in post-industrial economies, whereas this opinion is probably not dominant. In 1989, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said to The Guardian that ‘Poverty no longer exists in Britain, only inequality’ (quoted in Atkinson, 1998: 45). But is it really true that poverty has disappeared in rich countries? As indicated above, the most extreme forms of poverty have been virtually eradicated. However financial hardship is a pressing problem for many workers in post-industrial countries, as is shown in this book. Atkinson gave a convincing answer: ‘I would certainly agree that the problems of the Sahel are more pressing than those addressed in [his book Poverty in Europe] … but poverty within rich countries may legitimately come next on our list of concerns’ (Atkinson, 1998: 1). It should be noted that the definition and the measurement of poverty will not be my main focus. A vast literature already exists and I do not wish to...

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