Lowest earners worst off financially during pandemic - JRF
People already struggling with poverty and those with the lowest wages have been worst hit by the pandemic said the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in its latest report.
The report, which urged the government to boost support for hard-pressed families, said those who had been struggling to make ends meet before March last year were more likely to work in precarious jobs or sectors of the economy that had been hardest hit by lockdowns.
Before coronavirus, around 14.5m people in the UK were caught in poverty, equating to more than one in five people. That number was set to increase if the government does not take action, said the report.
Those heavily affected by the pandemic included: part-time workers, low-paid workers and sectors such as accommodation and food services, Black, Asian and minority ethnic households, lone parents – mostly women, private renters, who have higher housing costs, and social renters, who tend to have lower incomes, both leading to higher poverty rates.
The report also called for the government to make permanent a £20 per week rise in universal credit benefit payments which was due to be cut from the end of March.
It also said that the Government must support people in the lowest-paid jobs, or people working part-time, to move into higher pay and access sufficient and secure working hours, including bringing forward the Employment Bill.
The foundation also called on the government to increase the amount of low-cost housing available for families on low incomes and increase support for households who have high housing costs.
Four in 10 workers on the minimum wage faced a high risk of losing their job, compared with just 1% of workers earning more than £41,500 a year, it added.
The warning came as unemployment in the UK is expected to rise dramatically this year after the end of the furlough scheme in April.
Helen Barnard, the foundation’s director, said: "It is a damning indictment of our society that those with the least have suffered the most before the pandemic and are now being hit hardest once again by the pandemic. The government must now make the right decisions to avoid another damaging decade."