Welcome to the Public Works blog.

Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Poverty and young adults

Young adults under 30 now make up the biggest share of people experiencing poverty in Scotland, and are the only age group to have seen an increase in poverty levels since 2003.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published their latest report on poverty in Scotland. It shows the impact on young adults in particular. The report also highlights persistently high levels of disadvantage in health, education and work.

The key findings of the report include:

  • child and pensioner poverty rates have fallen from 33 per cent for both groups in 1996/97 to 22 per cent and 11 per cent respectively in 2012/13;
  • Around one in eight under-25s is now unemployed – at least twice the rate of any other age group.
  • 920,000 people in Scotland lived in poverty in 2012/13, 230,000 fewer than ten years before
  • life expectancy in Scotland is still lower than in England: men in the poorest parts of Scotland live 3.9 years less than in the poorest parts of England;
  • there’s still a wide attainment gap (based on results at S4) between pupils who live in deprived and wealthier areas;
  • better qualified people are increasingly in low-paid work. In 2013, 13 per cent of low-paid workers had a degree, compared to 5 per cent in 2003.
  • Since 2010, there has been a large rise in the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants referred for a sanction. The monthly rate peaked at 16 per cent of all claimants in 2013.

These findings show that poverty can be reduced As the falls in child and pensioner poverty over the past decade in Scotland show.

JRF argue that sustained action for young adults could achieve similar results. We would agree and here are a few suggestions:

  • A guarantee of work or training for those who are able to work without benefit sanctions. A fair and equal welfare system for those who can't.
  • Improve the quality of work for young adults including tackling insecure employment like nominal or zero hour contracts.
  • Better quality apprenticeships and training, rather than some of the minimal offerings with Modern Apprenticeships. The JRF report also shows that employees with higher qualifications are almost twice as likely to receive in-work training as those with lower qualifications.
  • Affordable housing to rent or buy. This means increasing the supply of housing in line with the ideas set out in UNISON Scotland's housing policy. And strengthening regulation in the private rented sector together with rent controls. Shelter's new Make Renting Right campaign is a step forward here. UNISON Scotland Young Members Housing Guide 2014/15 is another great resource.

Concerted action is needed to ensure another generation of young people does not get trapped in poverty.



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