By Charlie Kimber
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Poor plunged further into poverty in pandemic, report finds

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Issue 2738
Those in poverty before the pandemic have been worst affected under the pandemic
Those in poverty before the pandemic have been worst affected under the pandemic (Pic: Flickr/Staffs Live)

People who were poor before the pandemic have been pushed further into poverty because of the way the government has handled the virus. 

They have been worst affected by the economic effects of coronavirus and will be the last to recover, a new report warns. 

People trapped in poverty when Covid-19 hit were the most financially vulnerable. And they tend to work in the sectors which have been hit hardest, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said.

Almost half of disabled people in employment at the start of 2020 reported no earnings by the middle of the year.

The report sets out how, before the pandemic, the standard of living was falling fastest for people on the lowest incomes. Meanwhile, child poverty and in-work poverty had been steadily rising.

When the pandemic hit, class differences were even further deepened.

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Workers on the lowest incomes experienced on average the largest cut in hours and were more likely to have their hours or pay cut. The same Social Metrics Commission report found that 81 percent of those working in hospitality and leisure have been negatively financially impacted. 

That compared with just 16 percent of those in financial services.


The JFR said younger workers were more likely to have been furloughed or made redundant as they are more likely to work in accommodation, food and retail sectors.

Workers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were 14 percent more likely to be made unemployed. And they were 13 percent less likely to be furloughed at the start of the pandemic. 

The JRF said ministers must make tackling poverty an economic priority in 2021, and give urgent support so the lowest earners can recover from lockdowns and job losses.

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This includes making permanent the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit payments and extending the uplift to those on other benefits. It is only in place until the end of March. 

Its report said, “The government needs to do the right thing and keep supporting people on low incomes.

“If it takes the lifeline away, people will be cut adrift and pulled deeper into poverty.”

It will take resistance to push the Tories into maintaining and extending benefits.

JRF director Helen Barnard said, “It is a damning indictment of our society that those with the least have suffered the most before the pandemic.” And they “are now being hit hardest once again by the pandemic”. 

“It’s unacceptable that certain groups are bearing the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19 and are now reeling from the latest blow of this third lockdown,” she said. 

Imran Hussain, Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns, said it was “disturbing” that “a generation of children face having their life chances harmed”. He said they were being harmed “by the benefit freeze, the economic and mental health effects of the pandemic, and the choices the chancellor now makes”. 

We need resistance against the Tories.

People Before Profit national activists’ meeting—Fighting for safety, jobs and survival, 2pm, Sunday 24 January, details at

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