Poverty – What we already know


WOMEN AND GIRLS AND POVERTY

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Introduction

  • This slide pack provides an overview of poverty affecting women and girls in Scotland based on the latest available official statistics. This includes:
  • Rates of poverty among single working-age women and women pensioners.
  • Rates of poverty in households with children.
  • Other measures of socio-economic inequality, including: food insecurity, cost of living, wealth, unmanageable debt and financial vulnerability.
  • The latest official estimates of poverty in Scotland are from the period between April 2017 and March 2020, before the first UK-wide lockdown due to COVID-19. Therefore, current official estimates do not yet tell us about the impact of the pandemic on poverty experienced by women and girls.
  • Key findings from research focusing on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women in the short term, and how it is likely to affect women in the long term, are summarised in this slide pack.

Rates of poverty in Scotland

  • The most commonly used poverty indicator in Scotland is relative poverty after housing costs. Relative poverty is a measure of whether the lowest-income households are keeping pace with the middle income households across the UK.
  • Poverty is measured at household level. Everyone in the same household is considered in poverty or not in poverty. This makes it difficult to measure the poverty rate by gender of an individual person if they share the households with others. Therefore, statistics are published only for single adult households (with or without dependent children).
  • In 2017-20, the relative poverty rate after housing costs for all single adults (working-age and pensioners) was 27%, higher than for the total population (19%).

Source: Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2017-20

Poverty among single working-age women

In 2017-20, the poverty rate was highest for single mothers (38% reflecting around 40,000 single women each year). The poverty rate for single women without children was 27% (60,000 women), and for single men without children was 34% (90,000 men). Estimates for single fathers are not available due to small sample sizes.

Until 2010-13, the gap in poverty rates between these groups had narrowed, but in recent years it widened again.

Source: Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2017-20

Poverty among single women pensioners

In 2017-20, 20% of single female pensioners (50,000 women each year) and 17% of single male pensioners were in relative poverty after housing costs. There were too few single male pensioners in poverty in the sample to produce a robust estimate of their population size.
In most years, the poverty rate after housing costs for single female pensioners had been higher than that for single male pensioners, with this gap only recently widening and closing again.
Some of the difference in pensioner poverty between genders may be due to different age profiles. For example, in 2017-20, 40% of female single pensioners were aged 80 or older compared with 30% of male single pensioners. Older pensioners may have different sources of income which may result in them having lower incomes.

Source: Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2017-20

Child poverty in Scotland

  • There are four official measures of child poverty in Scotland:
    • Relative poverty – individuals living in households whose equivalised income is below 60 percent of median income in the same year. This is a measure of whether those in the lowest income households are keeping pace with the growth of incomes in the economy as a whole.
    • Absolute poverty – individuals living in households whose equivalised income is below 60 percent of inflation-adjusted median income in 2010/11. This is a measure of whether those in the lowest income households are seeing their incomes rise in real terms.
    • Low income & material deprivation – Percentage of children in combined material deprivation (based on a suite of questions in the Family Resources Survey) and low income after housing costs (below 70% of UK median income).
    • Persistent poverty – Persistent poverty identifies the number of individuals living in relative poverty for 3 or more of the last 4 years. 
  • It is estimated that 24% of children (240,000 children each year) were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2017-20. Before housing costs, it is estimated that 21% of children (210,000 children each year) were in relative poverty.
  • After a long fall between the late nineties and 2010-13, which slowed briefly just before the recession, child poverty rates have been gradually rising again.
  • Child poverty rates are relevant to understanding the experiences of women and girls as child poverty is strongly linked to maternal poverty.

Source: Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2017-20

Some types of households with children are known to be at a particularly high risk of poverty 

* Treat with caution, sample size is too small for robust estimates

• ^ Sample size too small to allow estimates

No data available (for other reasons)

** Definition of priority households differ slightly for the persistent poverty estimates

Source: Relative, absolute and CMD: Family Resources Survey 2017-20 , except for young mothers figure which is based on 2015-18. Persistent poverty: Understanding Society survey 2015-19.

Lone parent families (mostly lone mothers)

Sources: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan Second year progress report 2019-20 Annex C – Child poverty among lone parent families; What do we know about in-work poverty in Scotland? Interim findings, SG 2019; Scottish Surveys Core Questions 2019; Freeing low-income single parents from in-work poverty’s grip, JRF 2021

 

Families with younger mothers (<25 yrs)

Sources: Joint briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s wellbeing, Close the Gap and Engender 2021 ; GUS The Experiences of Mothers Aged Under 20, 2014; Prevalence and Social Inequality in Experiences of Domestic Abuse Among Mothers of Young Children: A Study Using National Survey Data from Scotland, Skafida, V., Morrison, F., Devaney, J., 2021; Babies in Lockdown – Listening to parents to build back better, Home-Start 2020; Weathering the Storm, Poverty Alliance 2021; Coronavirus (COVID-19) – experiences of vulnerable children, young people, and parents, SG 2021; Personal and economic well-being in Great Britain: January 2021

 

Families with children under 1

Sources: Gender and Work in Scotland: Findings from Understanding Society, 2019; Growing Up in Scotland: Patterns of Maternal Employment and Barriers to Paid Work 2017; Cost of childcare, Pregnant Then Screwed 2020; Joint briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s wellbeing, Close the Gap and Engender 2021 ; Insecure Labour the realities of insecure work for pregnant women and new mothers Maternity Action 2020; Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22 Annex 2 – Technical Annex

 

Minority ethnic families

*There is a lack of comprehensive data on how ethnicity interacts with income from social security in Scotland

Sources: First year Progress Report 2018-19 Annex C Child Poverty In Minority Ethnic Families; What do we know about in-work poverty in Scotland? Interim findings, SG 2019; Scottish Surveys Core Questions 2019; Ethnicity and poverty in Scotland analysis and reflection on the impact of Covid-19, CRER 2020

 

Families with a disabled person

Sources: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan Third Year Progress Report 2020-21 Annex B: Child Poverty in Families with a Disabled Adult or Child; What do we know about in-work poverty in Scotland? Interim findings, SG 2019; Scottish Surveys Core Questions 2019

 

Families with 3+ children

Sources: NHS Health Scotland: Child poverty in Scotland: priority groups – larger families 2019; Scottish Household Survey, 2019 ;Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22 Annex 2 – Technical Annex; Child poverty transitions: exploring the routes into and out of poverty 2009 to 2012, Barnes, M., Lord, C. and Chanfreau, J. 2015

 

Other measures of socio-economic inequality

In addition to the poverty rates, there are other official measures of socio-economic inequality in Scotland including:

  • Food insecurity
  • Cost of living
  • Wealth, including property and pension wealth
  • Unmanageable debt
  • Financial vulnerability
  • Economic activity
  • Area deprivation

Food insecurity

Since 2017, the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) has gathered data on food insecurity in Scotland. Food insecurity is defined as the proportion of adults reporting that, at some point in the previous 12 months, they were worried they would run out of food because of a lack of money or other resources. 

In 2020, 8% of adults in Scotland experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months. It should be noted that in 2020, as a result of COVID-19, the decision was taken to collect data for key measures via a telephone survey. At the time of interviewing (5th August to 23rd September 2020) COVID-19  cases had reduced after the first wave of the pandemic and restrictions relating to time outside of the home, social interactions and businesses that could open had been eased. Those previously advised to shield had been told they no longer had to from 1st August. It should be noted that these 2020 findings are not directly comparable with previous findings from face-to-face SHeS surveys.

There is little difference in food insecurity between men and women in Scotland. In 2020 7% of women and 8% of men said that they had been worried they would run out of food in the previous 12 months due to a lack of money or other resources. In 2018/2019 adults living in single parent households were most likely to report being food insecure. Nearly one in three (31%) of single parent households (one adult any age and one or more children) reported that they had been worried they would run out of food in the previous 12 months due to a lack of money or other resources. The majority of these households were headed by a single mother. In 2018/2019, around 7 in 10 of the single parents who had been worried about running out of food (21% of all single parents) went on to say that they had eaten less than they should for the same reason and around half of those (12% of all single parents) said they had run out of food due to a lack of money or other resources.

Sources: Scottish Health Survey – telephone survey – August/September 2020: main report – gov.scot (www.gov.scot); Scottish Health Survey 2019 – volume 1: main report – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

 

Cost of Living

Cost of living refers to the percentage of net income spent on housing, fuel and food by households in Scotland and is measured as a three-year rolling average.

The latest data shows that households in Scotland spent 26.1% of their net income on housing, fuel and food in 2017/18 – 2019/20.

 

The cost of living is higher for households with female household heads compared to those with male household heads. Households with female heads spent 30% of their net income on housing, fuel and food in 2017/18 – 2019/20, compared to households with male heads who spent 23% of their net income on housing, fuel and food in 2017/18 – 2019/20. The cost of living is highest for single parent households (who spent 46% of their net income on housing, fuel and food in 2017/18 – 2019/20), followed by single adult households without any children (who spent 35% of their net income on housing, fuel and food in 2017/18 – 2019/20). Households with 3+ adults (with or without children) have a lower cost of living (20% of their net income spent on housing, fuel and food in 2017/18 – 2019/20).

 

Sources: National Indicator Performance | National Performance Framework; Additional poverty analysis 2021 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) 

Total Wealth

Personal wealth is one of the key components of people’s standard of living. Wealth can be used as a source of finance to improve current or future living standards, to invest in opportunities such as education or entrepreneurial activities, and to provide financial resilience, reducing vulnerability to shocks such as unemployment or illness. Total wealth is made up of financial, property, pension and physical wealth (the value of your belongings other than property).

The 2% top income households in Scotland had 9% of all income, but the wealthiest 2% of all households in Scotland had 15% of all wealth. On the other end, the bottom 20% households had 8% of all income, and only 1% of all wealth.
Some people are more likely to be wealthy than others. Lone parents (of which the majority are lone mothers) are the least wealthy of all household types. Working age-women with no children are slightly more wealthy than working-age men with no children. However, single female pensions are less wealthy than single male pensioners.

 

Source: Wealth in Scotland 2006-2018 (data.gov.scot)

 

Property wealth

Property wealth is the value of all property owned (the main residence and any other property owned) less any debt on the property (e.g. mortgage) and equity release. It is derived from respondents’ own valuations of their properties, rather than any survey valuation. If someone’s outstanding mortgage liabilities exceed the value of their property they are in property debt.

66% of households in Scotland owned some property in 2016-2018, while 34% had none. The average property wealth among property-owners was £120,000. A typical household in the top decile ( = 10% band) of the population that owned some property had on average £430,000 in property wealth, and one in the bottom decile had £19,700.

Lone parent households are the least likely of all household types to own any property, followed by working-age women with no children. However, single female pensioners are slightly more likely to own property than single male pensioners.

Source: Wealth in Scotland 2006-2018 (data.gov.scot)

Pension wealth

Private pension wealth is an estimate of the value of wealth held in private (non-state) pension schemes, expressed as an equivalent ‘pot of money’. It comprises occupational and personal pensions and includes pensions of public sector workers. The estimate is based only on the pension rights accumulated to date and does not include rights which may be built up in future.

   

Source: Wealth in Scotland 2006-2018 (data.gov.scot)

 

Unmanageable debt

Some households not only have no financial wealth, but they are in debt, or even in unmanageable debt. A household is defined as being in unmanageable debt if they have liquidity problems or solvency problems, or both. Liquidity problems mean people struggle with their debt repayments and are falling behind with bills. Solvency problems mean people have a large amount of debt and feel heavily burdened by it.

In Scotland in 2016-2018, 2.9% of households were in unmanageable debt, and this follows a largely decreasing trend since 2010-2012, when measurement started.

Lone parent households were most likely of all household types to have unmanageable debt.

Source: Wealth in Scotland 2006-2018 (data.gov.scot)

 

Financial vulnerability

Most poverty analysis is focused on people’s income only and says nothing about their savings. But when a household suddenly loses a large part of their income, for example because someone loses their job, then some households are able to draw on their savings to pay the rent and shop for food until a new job is found, while other households may have no savings to draw on. A household is considered financially vulnerable when there are not enough savings to cover basic living costs for three months. 

34% of households were financially vulnerable in 2016-2018.

Lone parents (mostly mothers) are most likely to be financially vulnerable. Working-age men and women with no children were similarly likely to be financially vulnerable. And single female and male pensioners were also similarly likely to be financially vulnerable, but less likely than working-age singles.

Source: Wealth in Scotland 2006-2018 (data.gov.scot)

Economic activity

Economic activity refers to a person’s employment status. The three categories of economic activity are: employed, unemployed and inactive. The economically inactive are people without a job who are not currently seeking work, for example students, people looking after a family, the long term and temporarily sick and disabled, retired workers, and discouraged workers. The unemployed, on the other hand, are actively seeking work.

In Scotland in 2019 56.9% of people were in employment, 2.2% were unemployed, and 40.9% were inactive.

Women aged 25 – 64 were less likely to be in employment compared to men aged 25 – 64, and more likely to be economically inactive. For example, in 2019 75.5% of women aged 25 – 34 were in employment compared to 85.0% of men of the same age. Over one fifth (21.5%) of women aged 25 – 34 were economically inactive/didn’t know their status, compared to 11.5% of men of the same age. Single parent families (mostly mothers) were more likely to be unemployed than all other household types.

Source: Scottish Core Surveys 2019 (Supplementary Tables)

Area deprivation

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation is a tool for identifying the places in Scotland where people are experiencing disadvantage across different aspects of their lives. SIMD splits Scotland into 6,976 small areas, called ‘data zones’, with roughly equal populations. Over 30 indicators of deprivation into seven types, called ‘domains’. These seven domains are combined into one index, ranking each data zone in Scotland from 1 (most deprived) to 6,976 (least deprived).

There is little difference between the percentage of women and men across the SIMD quintiles (1 – most deprived, 5 – most deprived. Single parent households (mostly mothers) are the most likely household type to live in the most deprived fifth of the country (40.3%), and least likely to live in the least deprived fifth of the country (9.5%).

Source: Scottish Core Surveys 2019 (Supplementary Tables)

 

Economic impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls

  • Women account for higher employment shares in many ‘shut down’ sectors and those that are employed are more likely to work part-time, less likely to be in secure employment, earn less on average than men and are less likely to be eligible for sick pay.
  • Women are also more likely to have caring responsibilities which may make it hard to maintain or take on employment. Evidence suggests that when schools and nurseries closed, housework and childcare fell more on women than men.
  • Women are also the vast majority of lone parents who, before COVID, were much more likely to be in debt and/or financially vulnerable. Households with only one earner are more exposed to the impacts of earnings reductions or losses and lone parents may be less likely to have someone to share childcare with, making paid work harder.
  • Between March 2020 to February 2021, women were more likely than men to be furloughed. Women were also more likely to be furloughed for longer. Data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) show that, of all those who have ever been furloughed, 54% of women were furloughed for more than three months, compared with 45% of men.
  • While women have continued to spend more time than men on housework/unpaid work and childcare during COVID, the gender gap in time use has narrowed. Changes in social norms, employment flexibility and home working may affect the gender pay and employment gaps positively.

Sources: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Equality in Scotland; Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the different effects on men and women in the UK, March 2020 to February 2021; An overview of workers who were furloughed in the UK: October 2021

 

Conclusions

  • Single mothers are at the highest risk of poverty across a number of metrics:
    • The poverty rate is highest amongst single mothers
    • Single parent families (the majority of whom are single mothers) make up a key priority group at risk of child poverty.
    • Single parent families are more likely to experience food insecurity
    • Single parent families have the highest cost of living of any household type.
    • Single parent families are also the least wealthy household type, and the least likely to own property.
    • They are the most likely household type to have unmanageable debt, and most likely to be financially vulnerable.
    • Single parent families are also the most likely household type to be unemployed
    • They are the most likely household type to live in the most deprived fifth of the country (40.3%), and least likely to live in the least deprived fifth of the country (9.5%).
  • COVID-19 restrictions are likely to have had greater negative effects on women. Women account for higher employment shares in many ‘shut down’ sectors and those that are employed are more likely to work part-time, less likely to be in secure employment, earn less on average than men and are less likely to be eligible for sick pay. Women have also been more likely to take on increased childcare and household responsibilities during the pandemic. However, changes in social norms, employment flexibility and home working may affect the gender pay and employment gaps positively.