Socialist Worker

5 million driven below breadline

Issue No. 1739

5 million driven below breadline

OVER FIVE million people are still living in "absolute poverty"-more commonly associated with the Third World-in Tony Blair's Britain. And the number is rising. Britain is at the sharp end of the free market, "neo-liberal" policies which are throwing people into deeper poverty across Europe. The figures are in a new survey, Breadline Europe, by Peter Townsend and David Gordon.

"It astonished us... We were expecting to find a small group of people, but nothing like the amount we found," said David Gordon. "We didn't realise the depth of poverty that people who had slipped through the safety net of the welfare state had sunk to." The survey used the definition of absolute poverty from the United Nations, including lack of food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and access to benefits.

One in six people in Britain-17 percent-live in such poverty.

  • Some 9 percent of households reported their income fell "a lot below" what they needed each week.
  • A further 8 percent said their income was "a little below" what they needed to survive.
  • And 4 percent said they or their partner had been forced to go without food over the past year. The highest rates of poverty were found among single parents.
  • Over two fifths of single parents with one child said they got less than �163 a week. Over half of those with two or more children said they had less than the necessary income.

Single pensioners are also suffering. One quarter said their income fell below �106 a week. Some 15 percent of families with two adults and one child have less than the minimum �205 a week considered necessary to survive.

Peter Townsend blamed successive governments for slashing welfare spending. "There is no evidence that the present government has started to turn it round," he said.


Collapse in East Europe

THE SAME poverty report shows that in Russia, Latvia and Ukraine life expectancy has fallen by at least six years since the "triumph of the free market" in 1989. Real wages in Russia have fallen to 1965 levels. The number of people living in poverty in Central and Eastern Europe has risen from eight million to 58 million.


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News
Sat 17 Mar 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1739
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