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* New official statistics show working age poverty in the West Midlands has fallen little, despite employment growth

* Government must take positive action to improve wages and empower workers, says TUC

TUC analysis of new official poverty figures published today (Thursday) has found that working age poverty in the West Midlands has barely fallen since 2010/11, despite regional unemployment falling significantly.

The proportion of working age people living in poverty was 24% in 2010/11, and 22% in 2017/18, according to today’s new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The poor progress comes despite unemployment in the West Midlands falling from 9.5% in 2011 to 4.8% in 2018.

TUC Regional Secretary for the West Midlands Lee Barron said:

“Thousands of people in the West Midlands are working hard, but still locked in poverty – that’s not right.

“The system is broken, with low pay, insecure work and the benefits freeze trapping families below the breadline.

“We need to redesign the economy to make it fair again. People in the West Midlands need more control over their working lives and a fairer share of the wealth they create.

That means banning shady practices like zero-hours contracts and raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour. And it means giving all working people the freedom to have a union in their workplace to negotiate fair pay and conditions.”

Editors note

Working age poverty and unemployment for UK nations and regions*

UK nation or region

(1) Working age poverty %

(2) Unemployment rate %

2010/11

2017/18

Change (ppts)

Jan-Mar 2011

Jan-Mar 2018

Change (ppts)

North East

22

23

+1

10.4

4.9

-5.5

North West

23

22

-1

7.8

4.3

-3.5

Yorks & Humber

23

21

-2

9.2

4.6

-4.6

East Mids

21

20

-1

7.7

4.0

-3.7

West Mids

24

22

-2

9.5

4.8

-4.7

Eastern

18

19

+1

6.2

3.9

-2.3

London

28

25

-3

9.1

4.9

-4.2

South East

16

18

+2

5.7

3.4

-2.3

South West

20

18

-2

6.6

3.5

-3.1

Wales

22

23

+1

7.7

4.4

-3.3

Scotland

19

20

+1

7.7

4.3

-5.5

Northern Ireland

19

17

-2

7.2

3.1

-4.1

UK

21

21

0

7.7

4.2

-3.5

* A worker is considered in working age poverty if their household income is less than 60% of median household income (after housing costs).
Source: Poverty figures are taken from Households Below Average Incomes 1994/95-2017/18 and unemployment figures from the Labour Force Survey, both of which are publications of the Office for National Statistics.

- HBAI provides data at national level for the proportion of working age adults living below the poverty line that have at least one adult in work. Today’s new data shows that for 2017/18 it was 60%, meaning that the majority of working age people living below the poverty line are in households with work. The data sample is not large enough to be able to give this sub-categorisation at regional level.

- Changes needed to end working poverty: The TUC is calling on the government to improve pay and increase the supply of well-paid work by:

  • Increasing the minimum wage to £10 as quickly as possible
  • Giving all public-sector workers a fully funded proper pay rise, after years of pay cuts
  • Ending the benefits freeze and improving support for low-paid families
  • Strengthening collective bargaining rights for workers, and setting up new bodies to negotiate pay in sectors where low pay is endemic, such as hospitality, agricultural labour and care work

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.