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Welsh workers are at risk of poverty.

SUCCESSIVE governments have clung to the idea that a job is the best way out of poverty.

You are radically less likely to be in poverty if you are in work. But worrying new research shows that in-work poverty is a pressing problem in modern Wales. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's report on Welsh poverty highlights the impact of poor-quality jobs, rising living costs and reductions in working-age benefits.

The poverty rate it has calculated for the whole nation of 23% is deeply concerning. It remains higher than any of the other UK nations.

The report acknowledges that "great strides" were made in reducing poverty between 1994-97 and 2003-06, but argues these "look to be unravelling for several groups".

Poverty is defined as living in a household in which the income is less than 60% of median average income after housing costs. There is great concern about the link between poverty and ill-health, relationship breakdowns and educational under-performance. It is a sad irony that a nation that, rightly, prizes the principle of solidarity so dearly is beset with problems of poverty and inequality. It is hard to overstate the importance of making Wales a home for well-paid jobs and of ensuring that our young people have the skills required to win such positions. Years of poor performance in international tests and our presence at the bottom of the UK earnings league table do not bode well.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies noted this week that the "major reason" why work lifts households out of poverty "less reliably" than before is that earnings growth has been "non-existent overall since the recession".

Governments are right to strive to get people into work but this must be coupled with efforts to improve pay. The lack of pay progression for part-time workers is a glaring issue that must be tackled, and the gender pay gap is not only deeply unfair but a failure which leaves all members of a family worse off.

It is profoundly concerning that Wales has the highest rate in the UK of disabled people living in poverty (39%), and rising poverty among couples with children should set off alarms.

The UK is poised for a chapter of economic uncertainty next year when Britain formally leaves the EU; our workers are already at growing risk of poverty and intelligent and determined leadership is needed to secure prosperity.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 7, 2018
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