According to the Resolution Foundation, the effect of Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement mini-budget yesterday will be to put a further 1.3 million people into poverty from April where poverty is further clarified to mean “not able to afford basic necessities.” That statement intrigued me. How accurate is the 1.3 million people? Does 1.3 million refer to 1.3 million singles or does it also include cohabiting couples classed as a single-person people unit? Is the 1.3 million people age-group specific or does it encompass every age group above the age of 18? And, how can an emotive word like poverty be defined by the vague description, “not able to afford basic necessities?” How are “basic necessities” defined? Cigarettes, beer and chips, or bottled drinking water, avocados and fat-free burgers?
My curiosity was aroused. I went to Resolution Foundation’s website to find out more about who they are and what they do. The Foundation turns out to be a charity, funded mainly through a trust fund but open to donations from organisations and individuals. Describing themselves as a think tank, the Foundation is mostly concerned with “improving living standards for those on low to middle incomes.” They do this across a wide range of social issues such as income, jobs, housing, tax, welfare, etc., producing reports containing their assessment of the impact of an economic or social change. I didn’t dig too deep but I did spot a definition of what they mean by “those on low to middle incomes” and which would answer some of my “1.3 million” questions above.
But what about poverty? How is that defined? I decided the folk at Resolution Foundation were the right people to answer that question and I’ve sent an email as follows:
Dear Sir, I was somewhat intrigued by today’s BBC’s article on the effect of Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement (mini-budget) yesterday and the follow-on statement from the Resolution Foundation that his changes will bring a further 1.3 million people into poverty where poverty is loosely defined to mean “not able to afford basic necessities.”
My curiosity was aroused by what is meant by poverty? I searched for a precise definition on your website and skimmed through the introductions to the articles that surfaced when I entered poverty in your search engine. To my amazement, I discovered various classifications of poverty: fuel, pensioner, relative, child, absolute, in-work, rural. There may be more. I didn’t read each article top to bottom.
I have, in the past, discovered definitions of relative and absolute poverty. Traidcraft Exchange, for example, offer these somewhat vague definitions:
a. When households earn 50% of the average household income in their country (or less).
b. The condition of not having enough income to maintain an average standard of living in the country you live in.
The condition of not having enough income to afford basic necessities like food, shelter and education.
My questions are:
– Are these definitions universally accepted?
– Are they your working definitions?
– Are terms such as not having enough income to maintain an average standard of living and not having enough income to afford basic necessities like food, shelter and education further defined – if so, what are they? – or are they left at that – if so, I am left with no real understanding of what is meant by poverty other than the general dictionary definition: the state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions.
I’ll let you know if I receive an answer.
6 April 2022, two weeks later… It’s been two weeks now that I have been waiting for a reply from the good folk at the Resolution Foundation but, sadly, it looks as if they have decided to ignore my questions about the definition of poverty. Ah well, maybe I will ignore their profound but meaningless statements about poverty in the UK.