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Are you better off working than on benefits

Are you better off working than on benefits

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There have been plenty of headlines recently suggesting that families may be better off living off benefits rather than going out to work. But is that really the case? Is the system designed so that families can ‘earn’ more through not working?


The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently looked into how much people earn on minimum wage compared to on benefits. Their figures showed a single person over the age of 25 would be £62.37 per week better off working than on the dole. The Foundation also did the sums for a family of four, where an increase of £73.54 was found when one parent went out to work on a minimum wage job. However, these calculations did not factor in costs associated with working, such as buying lunches or paying travel fares. Childcare costs were also left out as it was presumed the other parent could look after the children.

Social security system

In the UK the social security system is designed, in theory at least, to help people working in low paid employment. This means that schemes such as Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and differing levels of income tax should ensure people come home with more money while working than when claiming the dole. Lone parents also benefit from this, with extra financial help available to ensure they are better off working.


Are you better off working than on benefitsHowever, just because a person or family is better off working, that doesn’t mean they have a good standard of living. In many cases there won’t be much in it financially and as such, many working families across the country are still living in poverty. Statistics published in July by lone parent charity, Gingerbread, suggest that that 22% of lone parent families where the parent works full-time are living in poverty, up from 17% the previous year. A further 30% of children whose single parent works part-time also live in poverty.

Low-income families

While figures indicate that families in which parents work are better off, Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir argues that the government needs to take action to help low-income families. “It is deeply concerning that while the economy is on the up, hundreds of thousands of families remain trapped into poverty,” she said. “For far too many single parent families, work offers no real promise of escape from hardship.”

Most people want to work

Even when there is only a slight margin between the amounts earned in wages and received through benefits, the majority of the population would rather go out to work than claim benefits. As well as gaining social status and a feeling of achievement, those who go out to work are not subjected to harsh and often humiliating sanctions at the job centre.

Better off working

The truth is that for the vast majority of people in the UK, it does pay to work but that doesn’t mean you will be earning loads more than you’d receive on benefit or that you won’t struggle financially. However, if all the people who get up in arms about others being “better off on benefits” really believed that then surely a good chunk of them would pack in their jobs to claim this fortune awaiting them from the government.




About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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