Friday, December 12, 2014
Poverty in Britain: The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty
Young adults and people in work are now more likely than pensioners to be in poverty in Britain following a huge increase in insecure employment such as zero hours contracts, an influential study warns today.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says as many people in working families as in unemployed ones now live in poverty, after a decade of labour market upheaval which means a job is no longer a guarantee of an end to poverty.
Its annual report says the rise of part-time work and low-paid self-employment has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the number of under-25s living below the breadline as they struggle to cope with falling incomes, poor prospects and high costs from housing to food.
A lack of affordable housing also means those living in poverty are now as likely to be in private, usually rented, accommodation – at higher risk of eviction and homelessness – as in local authority or social housing. Some 13 million people in the UK are classified as living in relative poverty – meaning their household income is below 60 per cent of the average.
By contrast, pensioners have benefited from targeted policies, seeing a sharp fall in poverty to a record low level: from once being the most likely to be poor, the over-65s now have the lowest poverty rate of any age group.
The JRF said its report showed British society, in particular in working practices, had gone through a radical change in the past decade and the “very worrying” rise in working-age poverty imperilled the nation’s economic prospects. Julia Unwin, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We are concerned that the economic recovery we face will still have so many people living in poverty. It is risk, waste and cost we cannot afford: we will never reach our full economic potential with so many people struggling to make ends meet.”
The study, conducted on behalf of the JRF by the New Policy Institute, found that while employment was close to a historic high, millions of Britons were struggling to cope with a reality of insecure work and incomes which have fallen on average by 9 per cent in the five years to 2013.
The prevalence of zero hours contracts – of which there are now some 1.4 million – and part-time work has contributed to a situation where two-thirds of people who moved from unemployment into work in the past year are being paid less than the living wage – the amount needed to cover basic costs of living.
Many are also effectively trapped in low-paid work, with only 20 per cent of employees having left that income bracket after a decade in employment. The average self-employed person now earns 13 per cent less than they did five years ago.
The study also found that claimants of jobseeker’s allowance are now more likely to be punished for not attending the Government’s welfare-to-work programme than to find employment through it.
Half of all people in poverty now live in a family with someone in paid work, with some 40 per cent of adults in employment now also in poverty.
Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “This comprehensive analysis paints a bleak picture. Families have long been told by politicians that work is the answer but are finding that it isn’t. As long as the only work they get is insecure and low paid, they will continue to face hardship and financial misery.”
The shift in demographic fortunes is particularly stark for 16- to 25-year-olds, where the poverty rate has risen from 25 per cent in 2003 to 31.5 per cent a decade later, driven by factors from a low minimum wage to high unemployment.
The figures for the over-80s reflect a welcome improvement in pensioner poverty, with a fall from 30 per cent in 2003 to 16 per cent in 2013.
The report found that without tackling core problems such as low pay and the high price of essentials, in particular housing, poverty would not diminish.
The failure of wages to keep pace with costs means the number of working people claiming housing benefit is rising while average hourly pay has fallen in five years from £13.90 to £12.90 for men and from £10.80 to £10.30 for women.
The reliance of many on private rented accommodation with insecure tenancies means that the number of landlord repossessions – 17,000 – is now higher than mortgage repossessions – 15,000.
The Government insisted that the overall picture was one of improvement. A spokesman said: “The truth is, the percentage of people in relative poverty is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s and the number of households where no one works is the lowest since records began.”
I went to university in Sheffield and did an undergraduate degree in psychology. I applied for about 80 jobs but got nowhere. Clinical psychology is really competitive so I did a Master’s in clinical neurology.
I applied for 174 jobs and was really organised about it – I kept a spreadsheet with all the jobs and dates I’d sent the applications off. I got shortlisted for a few positions and some interviews but didn’t get a job.
I decided that if no one else would employ me I would set up my own business. I started Mopology, a cleaning firm, and also worked part-time for another cleaning company.
I managed to get a big contract and am nearly funding myself now, but I still rely on my parents to help pay my rent every month.
If I’m not self-sufficient by my 23rd birthday I’m going to have to move back home.
I can’t afford to drive so spend hours travelling to different houses on the bus with my vacuum cleaner. I can’t afford to go out and socialise more than once a month.
I never thought I’d go to university for four years and end up being a cleaner. If I’d have known that, I never would have gone. There is a real lack of jobs. It’s not just the graduates from this year competing for jobs, it’s the graduates from last year, too.
I work long hours, six days a week. My mum is worried that I’m wearing myself out. I’d like to be able to work fewer hours, but I think the harder I work the more likely I am to come out the other side. I’m just keeping my head down and going forward.
BY SEBASTIEN MALO AND FRANK MCGURTY
Demonstrators staged mass "whistle-blowing" rallies outside police stations across New York City on Friday to start a second weekend of planned protests against the killing of an unarmed black man by a white patrolman.
In Harlem, about three dozen protesters marched past public housing projects where they say police abuse is particularly pervasive before rallying outside a local police station house. There, the crowd blew metal whistles, piercing the cold air with the high-pitch shrill.
"We are here because out of this precinct, regularly, routinely, they abuse people in these housing projects," organizer Kevin Lee, 59, told the throng of protesters.
The idea was to "literally blow the whistle on killer cops ... in the communities most affected by police brutality," according to a statement by Stop Mass Incarceration Network, which organized similar protests in the boroughs of Bronx and Queens to be held on Friday.
The whistle-blowing was part of a wave of protests that have swept the city since last week, when a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July chokehold death of Eric Garner.
While recent demonstrations have drawn fewer people, and the number of arrests has dropped, a poll released on Friday shows that many New Yorkers agree that justice has not been served in the Garner case.
Nearly two-thirds of New York adults believe that the grand jury should have brought criminal charges against Pantaleo, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Friday. The poll of 760 adults was conducted from Dec. 4-10.
Earlier, as thousands of tourists and shoppers bustled through Times Square, protesters held up stark black and white signs bearing the names of more than 100 people who organizers say were victims of police violence. Some of them read out the name and a short narrative about each.
The artists, members of a Brooklyn-based collective called We Will Not Be Silent, organized the "language project" with the help of a Facebook event page.
"We try to take the language we hear on the street, the language of rage and sorrow," said Laurie Arbieter, one of the organizers. "We make complex thought come alive in the hands of the protesters by having it read boldly in black and white."
In Lower Manhattan, more than 100 people gathered in the cold on the steps of City Hall for a more traditional rally, some carrying homemade banners demanding an end to police violence.
The opponents of the Affordable Care Act have filed another long-shot lawsuit that could undermine health care reform and force many consumers to pay more for health insurance if the suit succeeds. The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate case, filed by anti-reform forces, that seeks to prevent the payment of tax credit subsidies to help people buy insurance in 36 states where the federal government has established health care exchanges because the state chose not to. If that case succeeds, low- and middle-income people in those states will have to pay a lot more of their insurance premiums. The new suit, filed late last month by the Republican-dominated House, aims to block another important subsidy: federal payments to insurance companies to keep deductibles, co-payments and other cost-sharing low for the poor. The Affordable Care Act specifies the maximum amounts people will have to pay in cost-sharing based on their incomes, and federal subsidies make up the rest. If the government is blocked from reimbursing insurers for the subsidies, the insurers will have to absorb the costs. But companies might well raise their premiums for everyone else in the individual market to recoup the loss. The House lawsuit argues that no money was appropriated to reimburse insurers for cost-sharing and that the administration could not use money from a separate account that subsidizes premiums. The Affordable Care Act authorized these cost-sharing subsidies when it was enacted in 2010 and the administration at one point requested an appropriation, but Congress failed to provide it. The House suit argues that it was unconstitutional for the administration to tap the separate fund to pay cost-sharing subsidies that are expected to total $175 billion over a 10-year period. For the suit to proceed, the House must show that it has standing to challenge the administration’s action. Courts often shy away from disputes between Congress and the executive branch. This suit does not even reflect the will of Congress, since it was filed only by the House, not the whole Congress. The House will have to prove that it was injured by the administration’s action and that the injury can be best fixed by the courts rather than by political means. If the courts grant standing, the House will have the additional burden of proving that a specific appropriation for this subsidy is actually required. If the House Republicans prevail and no law appropriating money is enacted, the harm may be significant. Many, if not most, of the people enrolled in health plans on the exchanges are believed to receive cost-sharing subsidies from insurers. If the federal government cannot assist, a lot of other individual policyholders may have to pay more.
The event, dubbed the “Day of Anger,” is set to begin Saturday in Manhattan, a New York City district that has seen weeks of demonstrations protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict a law enforcer responsible for the death of Eric Garner, who died in July after having been put in a chokehold.
The hacktivist group Anonymous has called on New Yorkers to join in the "March of Millions" protest on Saturday against police violence after a string of US police killings of black persons went unpunished.
This came after another grand jury in Ferguson cleared a white police officer of any wrongdoing in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot down in August in Ferguson, St. Louis.
“Your lives matter. All lives matter. We need justice. Together we will march. Together we will show there is still hope for humanity. Together we will show the world their deaths are not in vain. Both of the incidents as well as the grand jury decisions have led to massive protests across the United States,” the movement said on its website.
The US Senate's retiring Armed Services chairman says a claim used in 2003 to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq was based on a "fiction." Carl Levin says an alleged al Qaeda-Iraqi meeting in Prague never took place.
Levin told the Senate in plenary session that a CIA letter proved that ahead of the 2001 hijacked-plane attacks on New York and Washington there had been no meeting in Prague between the Hamburg-based lead hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi spy.
Other records indicated that Atta was "almost certainly in the United States at the time of the purported meeting in Prague," said Levin, who is chairman of the Senate's Armed Services Committee.
He told the Senate late on Thursday that former President George W. Bush and especially Bush's then Vice President Dick Cheney "misled" US citizens ahead of the 2003 invasion by claiming that the September 11, 2001, attacks had a connection with the then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Of course, connections between Saddam and 9/11 or al Qaeda were fiction," Levin said.
Public swayed by misinformation
"There was a concerted campaign on the part of the Bush administration to connect Iraq in the public mind with the horror of the September 11 attacks. That campaign succeeded," said Levin.
He also cited surveys from 2003 that showed that many Americans believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks.
The letter from current CIA director John Brennan released by Levin stated that there was "not one USG (US government counterterrorism) or FBI expert" who had evidence to show that Atta had indeed been in the Czech capital.
"In fact the analysis has been quite the opposite," Brennan wrote.
CIA cable warned against invasion
Levin said he had long sought declassification [publication] of a CIA cable dated March 13, 2003 that warned the then Bush administration against propagating the hijacker-Iraq theory, but to no avail.
This had followed a December 2001 television appearance by Cheney who claimed that it was "pretty well confirmed" a Prague encounter had taken place between Atta and senior Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian months before the hijackers attacked.
Far from Cheney's claim that it was 'pretty well confirmed,' there was "almost no evidence that such a meeting took place," Levin told the Senate, adding that it was an unsubstantiated, "single source" rumor.
Czech agents under pressure
Levin also cited a memoir published early this year by the former head of Czech counterintelligence, Jiri Ruzek, who wrote that US officials had pressured Czech intelligence to confirm that such a meeting had taken place.
Rusek wrote that from a US perspective Czech agents had not provided the "'right intelligence output'."
"They wanted to mine [extract] certainty from unconfirmed suspicion and use it as an excuse for military action," Rusek wrote.
FBI officials quoted by Reuters late on Thursday said Atta was probably in Florida in early April 2001 -- preparing for the September 11 attacks -- and that they had found no evidence of his traveling in Europe around that time.
The conclusion, Levin said, was that future US leaders "must not commit our sons and daughters to battle on the basis of false statements."
The 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein cost the lives of more than 4,689 soldiers, mostly American, between 2003 and a combat troop withdrawal in 2009.
Civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003 are put at at least 133,000 by the website Iraq Body Count.
Senator Levin's remarks followed the Senate's release of a damning report on CIA interrogations of al Qaeda suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda hijackers, using four passenger planes, murdered nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington in the attacks.