At the end of 2014, we learned that joblessness in the UK reached its lowest since the beginning of the financial crisis of 2008. According to the ONS, unemployment is now 6 per cent, having reached its peak at 8 per cent in 2009. This seems to be good news, especially for young adults who have been affected by job loss during the recession. However, higher employment prospects do not necessarily mean having the income necessary to achieve a socially acceptable standard of living.
The Prince’s Trust just released a study highlighting that young adults who are out of work are at risk of becoming socially isolated. This resonates with the latest findings of our Household Below a Minimum Income Standard (MIS) report, which indicates that almost 85 per cent of out-of-work adults under 35 years of age do not have the income necessary to achieve a socially acceptable standard of living, and 56 per cent of them have incomes below half MIS, a level where it is very difficult to make ends meet. Not being able to afford an adequate living standard could lead to isolation, as illustrated by a woman who took part in one of our research groups as part of the MIS project, “living on your own is very lonely and you do need to socialise. You do need to socialise otherwise you become a hermit”.
Having insufficient income for a socially acceptable standard of living, however, is not only a problem for unemployed people but also for those who are employed. Half of adults under 35 years of age working part-time are below MIS but more than a third of them have incomes below half of MIS. Self-employment does not present a better picture: self-employed young adults have seen their risk of falling below MIS increase from 37 per cent in 2008/09 to 48 per cent in 2012/13.
For adults over 35, the risk of not having adequate incomes is overall lower than for younger adults. However, they have seen the risk increased regardless of their working status since the crisis hit. Unemployed adults over 35 saw the risk of not having the income needed to live a socially acceptable standard of living increase from 69 per cent in 2008/09 to 75 per cent in 2012/13. Those self-employed and those working part-time saw the risk increase from 36 and 44 per cent to 37 and 46 per cent respectively.
The government’s economic forecast presents a positive picture for 2015, with overall growth and a reduction in unemployment. We still have to see if these projections materialise in the following months. In the meantime, the number of single working age adults finding difficult to achieve a socially acceptable standard of living has been on the rise. And, as one of the participants in our research groups remarked, “who wants to go to work every day just to pay for your gas, electricity and have nothing social?”