The Working Poor in Europe

The Working Poor in Europe

Employment, Poverty and Globalization

Edited by Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann

For a long time in-work poverty was not associated with European welfare states. Recently, the topic has gained relevance as welfare state retrenchment and international competition in globalized economies has put increasing pressures on individuals and families. This book provides explanations as to why in-work poverty is high in certain countries and low in others.

Chapter 9: Is Work a Route Out of Poverty: What Have New Labour’s Welfare-to-Work Measures Meant for the Working Poor in Britain?

Sara Connolly

Subjects: development studies, development studies, economics and finance, labour economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, labour policy


Sara Connolly INTRODUCTION The pioneering studies of poverty in the UK conducted by Rowntree (1901) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries established the points in a life cycle when individuals were most at risk of poverty – childhood, early parenthood and old age – and the associated interactions with the labour market which generated most of these risks – absence of an earned income due to unemployment, ill-health, death of the main income earner or retirement. While much has changed in terms of family structures, the nature of employment and the establishment of the welfare state, Rowntree’s insights into the causes of and routes out of poverty remain valid. Most modernday poverty is associated with the absence of an earned income and the households most at risk remain those with children or those with elderly people. As a consequence, government intervention in the UK has revolved around finding ways of providing incentives to work for those who can work and supporting those who cannot. This raises the question of whether work does protect households from poverty. Through an examination of trends, incidence and risk factors associated with in-work poverty, the aim of this chapter is to consider the extent to which employment provides an escape route from poverty. We discuss the incidence and composition of the working poor in Britain and consider whether work does indeed pay. BACKGROUND The period of Conservative government in the UK (1979–97) was associated with major changes in the style and scope of government policy....

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