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Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2015

This report looks at the whole five years of the Coalition’s term in government, although only some of the indicators bring us right up to date. The data on the labour market and benefit claims covers 2015. The data on incomes and poverty is less recent, taking us only to March 2014.

So what can we say about the Coalition’s record on incomes, jobs, pay, homelessness and education? Inevitably, the record contains good and bad, but the divisions between those indicators which have improved and those which have not is instructive. The table below summarises the changes over both the last five years and the last ten. Much of the ‘good’ is found in the employment chapter. Unemployment has fallen markedly over the last five years from 2.5 million to 1.8 million even if it is not quite back to the level of the mid-2000s. This is true for young adults as well as older adults, and true for long- and short-term unemployment. Household worklessness is now the lowest on record – only 16 per cent of working-age households have no working adult.

There are a few caveats to this good news story; there are more people on temporary contracts than five years ago, and more people in self-employment, for whom incomes have been falling. There are more people working part-time but wanting full-time work. Pay rates are lower than five years ago across the distribution, after inflation has been taken into account. Still, though, the improvement is real – there are more people in full-time, permanent jobs as well.

This rise in employment has knock-on effects when we look at the number of people claiming benefits, but overall the indicators in the social security chapter are pretty mixed. Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claims have fallen much more quickly than unemployment, leaving around 680,000 unemployed people not claiming the support they are entitled to. Out-of-work Housing Benefit claims have fallen, but claims among working families have risen. And while the number of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is lower now than in 2010, it rose in the last year, after falling almost every year in the previous decade.