The UK is a democratic country; its citizens enjoy freedom and equality. It is both one of the richest countries in the world and one of the most expensive countries to live in. You may think that a country such as this would be practically free of poverty. However, almost one-quarter of the population lives in poverty – this accounts for nearly 13 million people, including a third of all children. At the same time some of the richest people in the world live in the UK. Does this make Britain an equal society?
What is poverty?
The United Nations defines poverty as a ‘lack of capabilities to live a long, healthy and creative life, to be knowledgeable, and to enjoy a decent standard of living, dignity, self-respect, and the respect of others’.
If someone’s household income in the UK is below 60% of average household income, then they are considered to be living in poverty.
Effects of poverty in the UK
Children living in poverty are less likely to do well in their education than children who are from wealthier households.
They are also more likely to suffer from health problems, lower life expectancy and low employment prospects. 18% of children go without two or more essential items such as warm clothes and three meals a day. Just under ten million people can’t afford safe, warm housing and have to live in cold, damp conditions.
Children, women and the elderly are the worst hit by poverty. Those living in poverty often have to face humiliation and a feeling of helplessness as they are judged and seen as second-class citizens, with many people expressing the view that those in poverty are to blame for their difficulties.
Photo: Children living in poor conditions in Stetchford, Birmingham, UK