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Third fall below poverty line in UK

Published 20/05/2015

The ONS records someone as being in poverty if they live in a household with disposable income below 60% of the national average, before housing costs
The ONS records someone as being in poverty if they live in a household with disposable income below 60% of the national average, before housing costs

Almost a third (33%) of the UK population - 19.3 million people - fell below the official poverty line at some point between 2010 and 2013, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

The figure was higher than the 25% average across the EU as a whole, the ONS found.

But Britons seemed to find it easier to escape from poverty than their continental counterparts, with just 7.8% - 4.6 million people - stuck in "persistent income poverty" in 2013, less than half the 15.9% EU average.

The ONS records someone as being in poverty if they live in a household with disposable income below 60% of the national average, before housing costs.

Persistent poverty is defined as being in poverty in the current year and at least two of the three preceding years.

Pensioners were most likely to fall below the poverty line, with almost 40% of those aged 65 and over in the UK doing so at least once between 2010 and 2013, compared with around 30% of those under 65.

Some 60% of those living in single parent households in the UK and almost half (46%) of those in single adult households experienced poverty at least once in the four years between 2010 and 2013, compared with less than a third of those living in households with two or more adults.

The UK ranked 13th out of the 28 EU member states for "overall poverty" - the proportion of people falling below the poverty line at some point during the four-year period - in a table topped by Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Spain. The country with lowest overall poverty levels was the Czech Republic, followed by Netherlands, Finland and Denmark.

On persistent poverty, the UK was 20th, with only the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovakia and Slovenia recording better results. Romania had the highest persistent poverty rates, followed by Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain.

Since comparable figures were first made available in 2008, the UK has consistently had a persistent poverty rate lower than the EU average.

Summing up the findings of recent research, the ONS said: "Studies reveal that although some people are stuck in poverty, the majority of 'the poor' consist of a constantly changing group of different individuals.

"This not only has implications for the design of policies to tackle poverty, but also means that a greater number of people experience poverty than are revealed by the headline poverty indicators.

"Although this means that poverty persists only for a relatively small minority, with the burden of poverty being shared among a larger section of the population, evidence suggests that those who have already been in poverty are more likely to experience poverty again in the future than those who have never been in poverty."

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