A new report published by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), based on analysis of YouGov survey data from around 80,000 people across the UK, highlights that, although the economic and employment impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be significant for those already living in poverty, more people than not believe the crisis has brought society together and improved relationships.
The report reveals that:
- More people think the crisis has brought society together than think it has divided it. More than two fifths (41%) of people feel the situation has mainly unified society, compared to just under a quarter (23%) who believe it has mainly divided it. However, this positive response is more common for those living above the poverty line (41%) than below it (38%).
- People feel more positive about their relationships. In total, when asked how their relationships with others have changed, almost a fifth (19%) of people say they feel more positive about others now, compared to just under one in eight (12%) who feel more negative. However, this positive response is more common for those living above the poverty line (19%) than below it (16%).
- More people are confident about the future than are fearful about it. In total, when asked how they see their own future, almost two thirds (65%) say they think they’ll be ok, compared to just over a fifth (22%) who say they are fearful. However, this positive response is more common for those living above the poverty line (67%) than below it (58%).
Philippa Stroud, Chair of the SMC and CEO of the Legatum Institute, commented:
Strong families and communities are cornerstones of society, helping create an environment in which people support and protect each other in times of need. So, I am encouraged that people across the UK feel the coronavirus crisis has brought society together and increased their appreciation of others, rather than causing division and distrust. Strong social capital will be vital to the future prosperity of our country as we emerge from the pandemic.
However, the findings also highlight the resilience gap between those living in poverty and those above the poverty line. In addition to financial struggles, our data shows that those in poverty were more likely to have felt lonely before lockdown began and are more likely to feel more lonely as a result of the crisis. Research has demonstrated the disastrous effects that loneliness can have on our physical and mental wellbeing, so it is important that the social and mental health challenges facing the most vulnerable are considered alongside economic ones as we build the road to recovery.
The SMC’s report also provides early indications of the likely scale and nature of the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on poverty in the UK, with data on how those employed prior to the crisis have fared. It shows that:
- Those employed prior to the crisis and already in the deepest forms of poverty have been most heavily impacted by the economic fallout. For example, compared to those more than 20% above the poverty line, those more than 50% below the poverty line have been 15 percentage points more likely to have experienced a negative labour market outcome (that is, been furloughed, had reduced hours or wages, or lost their job).
- Groups already over-represented amongst the population in poverty have also been most heavily impacted by the crisis. For example, disabled people employed before the Covid-19 pandemic have been 4 percentage points more likely to have experienced a negative labour market outcome than people without a disability. In addition, those from Black and Asian ethnicities have been more likely to be negatively impacted (by 4 and 6 percentage points respectively) than those from White ethnic groups.
- The youngest and oldest workers have been impacted most by Covid-19. Compared to those aged between 35 and 44, those aged 18-24 and those aged 55 and over are more likely to have experienced a negative labour market outcome (by 7 and 4 percentage points respectively).
- Impacts vary significantly between workers in different industries. For example, 81% of those working in hospitality and leisure have been negatively impacted, compared to just 16% in financial services.
The SMC warns that the scale of the negative changes in employment statuses for those already living in poverty could lead to an increase in the severity of poverty and exacerbate the already increasing trend in deep poverty seen over the last 20 years. In addition, those previously close to but above the poverty line could move into poverty, resulting in a significant increase in poverty.
Philippa Stroud continued:
These results show that the nature, severity, and lived experience of poverty and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole are complex and driven by an interlocking range of factors. Understanding, measuring, and documenting the impact of the crisis and using the findings to drive an anti-poverty response will be central to ensuring that, as the economy begins to emerge from lockdown, the recovery balances up and benefits everyone across the whole of the UK.
The Commission’s poverty measurement framework provides a comprehensive approach through which this can be undertaken, and against which the Government can be held to account, to ensure that poverty is less of an issue in the UK after the coronavirus crisis than it was before.