Poverty in Contemporary Britain and Europe

Exclusion and its Implications

Exclusion is a concept that refers to the existence of inequality, where individuals are cut off from engaging in wider society’s activities. Therefore, term “marginalization” is among those used to refer to poor people who are lives in slums and get little or no access to better education among other public facilities. Ideally, marginalized people experience unemployment and hence deficits in making a decent means of leaving. In most cases, the people who feel that are poor in terms of income or resources do exclude themselves from the rest of the society and the society’s affairs. According to Gordon et al, there exist three main areas of exclusion or poverty. The first one is the service exclusion (Leaman & Wo%u0308Rsching, 2010). This refers to individuals within the society who lack some essential services such as power, transport and even financial services and hence are regarded as a marginalized group.

Secondly, we have labour market exclusion which contributes to the emergence of a different form of exclusion. This consists of a group of people that survive without jobs income. Lastly, we have the wider form of exclusion: social exclusion. This refers to individuals unable to take part in social activities, such as inviting their friends for dinner or attending their friends wedding ceremonies, due to lack of funds. It can also arise from the political fields, meaning an individual being denied right to engage in civil activities, such as voting, because of their disability of lack of recognition within society (Howe, 1993).

There are two variations of poverty: absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty, according to Seebohm Rowntrees research in 1901, refers to individuals having little or no basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. His historical poverty concept is still relied on by the UK government when accessing poverty versus benefits. Absolute poverty can further be divided in to two groups within the modern society; primary and secondary poverty, where the latter means people lacking the normal luxuries and comforts such as alcohol. On the other hand, the primary poverty means that the family lacks adequate cash for survival.

Relative poverty, according to Charles Booth in 1902, refers to a situation where family’s income tries to go below that of the community though it is surviving. However, this form of poverty does not lead to deprivation as it is based on comparison of individuals’ levels of income and where they live.

Government Definition of Poverty and Nature and Extent of Poverty in UK And Usefulness of Research to Eradicate Poverty

Regardless of the various research works performed by the researchers on poverty, there existed no official definition of poverty in Britain until in the late 1990s when the government defined poverty line based on the average income of the people. Those households below the average income statistics were classified as below the relative poverty line, since their income was below 60% of the median income as calculated after all normal housing costs. In the calculation of the poverty line figures, the government came to the definition by considering the various benefits provided to the people. Those living solely on government benefits fit under the absolute poverty line category. This means that, only the relative poverty line was based on the average income of the people (Charles & Campling, 2000).

In assessing the poverty, the government found that inadequate income and unequal wealth distribution were the main cause of people lag below the poverty line. Various government statistics relating to the causes reveals in 2002/3, the UK population living below the poverty line increased from 13 percent, equivalent to 7.1 million to around 12.4 million, which constitutes 22%. This has resulted due to the gap between the rich and poor widening with time. This research on the poverty line is essential as the UK government can use the statistical figures of measuring poverty line in identifying the HBAI poverty groups such as large families, disabled people and families with many children before allocating more resources and income to them so as to rise above the 60% rate of the poverty line.

Furthermore, research plays a fundamental role in identifying the vulnerable groups. It should be noted that, for effective poverty eradication system, identifying the target group is a condition precedent. This implies that no poverty eradication policy would yield results, if it failed to identify who is poor in the society, indeed.

Besides, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the nature of poverty. In simple terms, one way of solving the problem is to identify why the problem exists viz, that is, why the poor people are in that state. This is because poverty is caused by a variety of factors, which demand different interventions. This simply means that different forms of poverty require different policies.

Furthermore, the role of research in poverty reduction cannot be undermined since it helps identify the principal activities undertaken by the poor people. In this regard, it is imperative to note that an effective poverty reduction strategy must be inclusive in nature to reflect poor people’s needs. Inclusion may also be viewed from the dimension of empowering the poor people in their daily activities. Here, research plays a key role in effective policy formulation.

In UK, policy makers have been advocating for policies that link research to production. In fact, research has helped improve workers’ productivity in the UK, as new and better methods of production are invented. In economic terms, increased production translates to increased national output and improved welfare. Improved welfare is analogous to reduced poverty.

Effective and Appropriate Response to Poverty

Among the universal benefits programs started by the UK government for poverty alleviation are the means-tested benefit. This benefit is solely set to those unable to pay in the national income scheme previously introduced, due to either lack of permanent and consistent job opportunities, or inability to work for one reason or the other. However, for any to access them, the mean tested benefits are all dependent on the level of income of the person and the available savings.

Those individuals, who are found to be unable to work, can only access the funds through having disclosed that their resources have fallen below the level that the government stated for poverty line. These mean tested benefits include, among others, non contributory JSA and working family tax benefits, maintenance allowances, income supports, housing benefits and lastly the housing fund benefits. However, despite these benefits, having a higher proportion of people, who deserve benefits, limit those who can benefit due to strong restrictions imposed by lack of proper communication, in addition to poverty (Brecher & Fleischmann, 1993).

This poverty alleviation response has been found to be ineffective in minimizing poverty among the people appropriately because the benefits are not easily accessible. The benefits system has been criticized as highly complicated with a lot of people often not capable of knowing what is being offered there. Secondly the information gathered from the poor group is purely termed as intrusive. Other people attach the benefits to some sorts of stigma and feels even visiting the benefits offices is hectic.

Structure of Existing Welfare Regimes and Investigations of Reports to Analyze Possible Solutions to Poverty in Europe

As noted from the three existing welfare regimes, we have clearly found that poverty can be approached in the definition through two perspectives; absolute poverty where people spent days and nights without basic necessities, such as food clothing and shelter. Though this is said to have been eradicated in Europe, there still exist some traces of homeless people in Roma. The European Union and United Nation have, however, put extreme poverty eradiation outlines in the millennium development goals.

According to EAPN report and European Union Inclusion Process survey in 2004, most of the European countries were mentioned to possess the relative poverty level and not the extreme cases. In the survey, relative poverty was defined as a state at which some peoples’ life and income levels are lower than that of others posing a threat to their general standard of living. Such a situation forces the sufferers to struggle to leave a normal life, economically, culturally and socially. As opposed to absolute poverty level, researchers found that relative poverty was not as dangerous as the first one, and it also varies from region to region depending on the standards of living (Mingione, 2007).

Discussion on Statistical Trends of EU Reports

The government and other stakeholders have, indeed, come up with various measurement of poverty, such as the poverty line, as outlined in the second welfare regime and the gini coefficients, as a move to understand and contain the problem. However, little progress has been made so far toward the eradication of the relative poverty in Europe. This is because the standard of living goes a notch higher almost daily. According to recent EAPN report, the struggle to eradicate poverty lies behind the essence of first understanding better the meaning of poverty by approaching those in the vicious cycle of poverty and asking them what poverty means to them. Secondly, they can be involved directly in finding opportunities suitable to poverty eradiation as mean of providing solution (Hill, 1996). Moreover, the government must commit itself in ensuring that the voice of those experiencing poverty was heard and echoed in the resource distributions.

The EU community, as the EAPN and UN poverty reports must be smart enough in criticizing and analyzing the current poverty survey data on poverty eradication of 2010 and 2007. The recent 2007 data reveal that over 16 percent of EU population (over 79 million people) is under the risk of being impoverished. However, the data vary across  member states as, for example, between 10% to 12 %  of the total population lies within Austria, Netherland, Denmark, Hungary and Sweden, whereas between 19% and 21% are at risk of being below the poverty line in Lithuania, Romania, Greece, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Latvia.

The report goes further to state that children between 0-17 years have a high poverty level of around 19%, while parents’ households and those with some dependants have a risk of over 34% just like the single parents. For the young people and especially those between 18-24 years, the poverty risks counts at 20%. For the aged population, the older men and women above 65 years, the data reveal a poverty risk of 19% and 22% respectively. Note that these data does not include the extreme cases in Roma and from the ethnic groups and minorities in the society.

Among the key poverty contributors, unemployment carries more weight. According to the EAPN report, over 42% of those unemployed are at a risk of high poverty compared to 8% of those working. On the other hand, 17% of those having retired are at risk compared to 24% of those who do not have retired. Lastly, among those under 16 years, it was revealed that, those working are at a 27% risk while those who are seeking for jobs face 35% risk. This increase of 8% among the EU states show clearly that having a job does not mean that one is out of poverty.

Possible Solution to European Countries Poverty Problems

If we compare to the EU SILC report of 2002( of 12%) and EAPN, the EAPN reports shows that poverty in EU members state is ever increasing; thus, there is a need to find possible solutions to the relative poverty and absolute cases in Roma. According to European Networks (EAPN) report for 2007, the European Foundation (EF) in 2004 and the EU SILC report for 2002, the following were agreed to be the possible solutions to poverty.

First, the EU governments must distribute the income and other resources equally among the people. They can achieve all these through having an efficient minimum wages level; access of all services such as housing, education and medical services to the neglected society in the regions. Through the tax system, the government can distribute the income equally by having the rich section being taxed higher and the income apolitically allocated to those resource centres capable of reducing poverty. This will help eliminate the political perception among the citizens that the least societies in Europe tend to have to the lowest poverty level countries such as Roma. The gap between the rich and the poor is enormous and thus; the government must redistribute income to all through implementing fair taxation policies.

Second, as illustrated from the statistical data given above, the alarming poverty level of 42% from the unemployment level can be eradicated. This can be achieved through governments ensuring reasonable job opportunities are created annually, as lack of jobs limits decent life among people apart from denying them social network. Moreover, unemployment contributes to inequality among people as even politic, social and economic shares. This is evident in Greece and Portugal were the gini coefficient is 5.5 and 6.53 respectively and yet its 4.5 for the entire Europe. The EU government can divert to the informal sector job creations, where the governments decide to emphasize on people not to rely on white collar jobs only. However, the youth must be provided with financial assistance as a start-up capital.

The EAPN report showed in 2007 that, in countries like Roma, some families were unusually large, besides most of them being lone families. According to research, it was found that lone families or single parents led families were extremely costly and had remarkably little amount of income apart from those with employment opportunities. This was a gesture to the government in realizing that the families deserve family planning, so as to control poverty. The government must intervene and provide contraceptives apart from educating the citizens in their countries on the need of having small families.

Moreover, the EU government should fight discrimination especially on job opportunities relating to minority ethnic groups, such as the case in Roma. The undocumented immigrants starve and live homelessly due to discrimination and racism in the employment sectors. This has led to most of the families in Europe find themselves in worse social and physical environment and lack the necessary, essential needs such as food, shelter and clothing.

Additionally, there is various gender based discrimination among women in Europe hampering the progressive move toward elimination of poverty. This was evident from the statistical data highlighted above, which reveals that currently the men and women possess a risk of being unemployed at the rate of 17% and 22% respectively. Women were mentioned to engage mostly in unpaid and less caring responsibilities with little or no pension at all, hence having a poor ending. Thus, from this report, the EU governments must ensure that at least women retain a third of the available job opportunities.

Lastly and not the least, the governments must embrace the need to care for the disabled or terminally ill people, as they cannot afford to sustain themselves. According to European Foundation Group (EFG) in 2002, the group found that every citizen in UK, Switzerland and Spain can survive with at least 6 dollars daily. The disabled people were found to survive with at most 4 dollars per day posing a threat that they may be wallowing along the poverty line.


Matching the statistical trends of relative poverty level in Europe and their causes, it is particularly vital for the EU member states to adopt ways of eradicating poverty. However, as the poverty level varies from one country to another, the countries must ensure that they pick the solution based on each country’s unique poverty problem. Therefore, for example, Roma, which suffers from the extreme or absolute poverty, can decide to apply the income distribution policy which advocates reduction of the gap between the rich and poor through taxing rich people and diverting the income tax to the poor resourcefully.

“Absolute Poverty has been Completely Eradicated in the UK Today”

The debate on absolute poverty in UK has been compelling an intriguing topic, and its clarity and truthfulness can be only found out of understanding of the current definition of poverty, in accordance to government and scholars guidelines. With the current debate of poverty eradication, it is quite essential to advocate that we have two forms of poverty, namely: absolute poverty (or extreme level) and relative poverty levels. According to a research by Charles Booth (in 1902), we find the absolute poverty definition to be at the extent, when a person lacks all basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. The people wallowing in this poverty level find hard to access proper medical services, clean water and, in short, they just struggle to survive. This is a more popular phenomena in developing countries though there have been some cases of such a problem in developed countries, as well (Woloch, 1982). In developed countries, it is indicated that homeless people originate due to war or earthquake, among other disastrous events.

On the other hand, European Ccommission’s Joint Report on Social Inclusion 2004, defines relative poverty level as such where people are living under inadequate level of income; in this case, they are denied from having an access to a good standard of living as considered acceptable in the region where they stay. Moreover, these people experience multiple demerits due to the poverty level. These restrictions include lack of job opportunities, low income, lack of decent housing and poor medical facilities, as well as barriers in proper learning, among many others. In extreme cases, the people may even find themselves marginalized and excluded from participating in various society activities, such as sports, learning and socialization. This means that their fundamental human rights are affected and thus; it is a challenge for them to enjoy the norms of life in the region.


Under the United Nation Millennium Development Goals on eradication of extreme or absolute poverty and hunger, UK is not listed among the developing countries that should implement the UN policies under the program. The secret behind this is that UK is a developed country and currently it is facing relative poverty, just like other EU countries. Moreover, absolute poverty exists where people live under one dollar expenditure daily not just because of their wish but the prevailing unemployment level among other reasons. This is in contrast to relative poverty level, where those sufferers wallowing in the problem, survive under less than six dollars per day, though it depends upon the areas where these people reside.

In addition to the above mentioned differences between absolute and relative poverty, the latter does not make people feel the poverty unless they compare themselves to other nearby people; therefore, the comparison subjects the poor party at a relative deprivation. On the other hand, one finds that lack of necessities pushes the people under absolute deprivation of wants; hence, falling under a hundred percent poverty level. In UK, it is hard to find categorically a person, who is entirely deprived; hence, the country is in the relative healthy stage, in terms of poverty level. Most of the British have agreed that every person should have the normal three necessities which, according to Rowntrees basket (1902) of necessities, contains-food, shelter and clothing.

Moreover, according to the UK government definitions of poverty, from 1898 to 2005, based on the average income of the people, country seem to stand on the relative poverty level, where the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) statistics classifies those under the relative poverty level. Households, which are living below 60 percent of the median income after housing costs, have been deducted. These clearly reveal that, in UK, there are no absolute poverty dwellers, who cannot afford a minimum provision of food, shelter and clothing.

Furthermore, a research conducted by Townsend in 2005 reveals further that the principal causes of poverty in UK are mainly the unequal wealth distribution and income inadequacy among the vulnerable groups, such as families with children, working aged disabled people, aged group and women who are temporarily employed. The missing of food and other necessary necessities shows clearly well that UK has totally wiped out the absolute poverty level. However, it must be noted that, over the last 40 years, the standard of living and unequal resource distribution has raised an alarm among the researchers. This has, to some extent, triggered the rise of poverty level from 13 to 22 percent. Successive regimes have, however, put poverty eradication as their main agenda in governance. The governments have been racing to invert the inverse medical care law, which stipulates that the quality of health care provision in UK vary inversely to the total population level it serves. This means that British wallowing in the relative poverty level take less action in preventing various diseases that bedevil them, as opposed to the affluent category, which enjoys adequate medical resources including the preventive measures.

Moreover, UK as developed country has introduced the welfare state program, where the impoverished in the society can access the necessary basic necessities as a move to boot out of absolute poverty. UK is an industrialized country; therefore, all the state’s governments had been working towards implementing the policy of welfare. The people had been enjoying free medical services, education, housing and income, since 1950s. The importance of the welfare state in the life of the Britons had been a progressive move to manage all the uncertainties and risks, such as loss of jobs, disabilities, old age and even sickness.

The program had covered almost all the UK citizens including the children under their Child Benefit program. The universal benefits delivered under the program have been designed so that all the basic welfare needs of the citizens are catered. However, the UK government has also been quoted to consume a heavy lump sum in the mean tested benefits, such as old age and disabilities. The existence of the mean benefits can be traced back to the Beveridge report (1942), who claimed that the benefits should be categorically divided into two categories. They are residual welfare and the institutional welfare, where the latter is provided to all citizens regardless of their status. The earlier one was initiated to assist those unable citizens in meeting their basic needs, hence out of the program implementation; the current UK has no traces of absolute poverty. The benefit was funded by the national insurance scheme whose mandate was to collect the earning from those already working, save for them and distribute at old age (Hindle, 2000).

We observe that, although the scheme provides benefits relating to eradication of the relative poverty, such as sickness benefits, old age retirement benefits and pensions plus unemployment benefits; absolute poverty had already been eliminated entirely. This was aimed to serve as an avenue toward ensuring that the income is equally distributed and hence, the issue of poverty is fully resolved.

Poverty Implications for the UK Society

When assessing the various implication of poverty to the society, the reasoning is mainly focused on the concept of social exclusionisms of people in various economical, social and political activities. Social exclusion refers to the manner in which people are marginalized within their regions by being cut off from the society either due to their economic status, disabilities or race. The climax of the marginalization is inevitable inequality along the line of resource distribution. For example, an individual whose access to better housing is bared may pose the person to live in slum; thus, rendering education access and other essential service inadequate. As a result, the people inevitably suffer even in terms of securing employment. Note that this implication can also arise in the society, where an individual excludes herself from the rest of family, as already stated in the Charles Murrays theory.

Along the line income or resource exclusion, there exist three dimensions of exclusion as started by Gordon et al. First, we have the service exclusion, which means an individual lack basic services such as water, power transport, shop and even financial services. Whenever this happens, we find that the standard of living of the people tends to go down. Second, we have the market exclusion, which results from the lack of job opportunities and, in most cases, it is found to cause service and social exclusions in the society.

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