There’s a fascinating piece of research released on Tuesday by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), and launched today, which “used panels of ordinary people reaching a consensus about the items and activities that allow participation in society as well as food, clothes, paying the bills and a home”.
What’s interesting is that it challenges a lot of notions about poverty, and encompasses in a large swathe of working people (often both parents) who are struggling to make ends meet. Thus although it may have something to say about benefit reforms it may also have a something to contribute to the debate about tax relief for the worse off.
I was particularly struck by Tim Worstall’s blog on the Daily Telegraph, who noted:
Fortunately the JRF are measuring poverty properly, as Adam Smith would have done. Smith pointed out that a linen shirt is not a necessity, but if you live in a society which sees linen shirts as a measure of affluence, then not being able to afford one makes you poor by the standards of that society.
The JRF are simply replacing linen shirt with holidays, computers, tumble driers and the rest. This is excellent: it is much better than the more usual measures which really describe inequality, not poverty.
However, the one thing that you really must know about the JRF numbers is that they are pre-tax numbers. These are the incomes that you need before the State takes its cut to pay for the Olympics, duck houses and those incredibly important diversity advisers.[Emphasis added]
You might say that, Tim is no shrinking lefty… There’s a lot of detail in the report that shines a light on subtle but profound changes in society, like the view that buses have now become too expensive to compete with a car at time of austerity when every penny counts…
I caught up with Chris late night on Google Plus:
You’ll see that he points out that those in vulnerable groups run from a 100% of what we might call a living (ie, participating) wage that allows full participation in society, to just 40%.