Causes, Trade-offs and Policy Solutions
Chapter 1: The Dilemmas and Puzzles of the Fight Against Working Poverty
Why do we need to study working poverty in post-industrial countries? It would certainly make sense to be concerned about the situation of those who work in developing countries’ informal economy and who are never sure if they will ‘make it until the next day’. Similarly, it makes obvious sense to analyse the most severe forms of deprivation, especially homelessness, in high-income countries. But in today’s advanced economies, we may be puzzled to find that a person holding a job – sometimes a full-time job – has to endure poverty. The puzzle is particularly striking given the development of dual earnership and the expansion of the welfare state in recent decades; and yet, working poverty has been ‘rediscovered’ in recent years and is perceived to be a growing problem. This book deals with the apparent paradox of the re-emergence of working poverty in postindustrial economies and contributes to the identification of potential solutions. As will be shown, low wages and income poverty follow partly independent logics, which are mainly due to the two above mentioned phenomena, namely the development of the welfare state, on the one hand, and the increasing share of dual-earner families, on the other hand. In countries in which this dual-earner household type is widespread and has set the norm in terms of consumption and living standards, living in a single-earner family becomes a disadvantage. As a result, there is no compelling reason why workers, even full-time year-round workers, should escape (relative) poverty. Moreover, the effectiveness of work as...
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