Families need to earn more to afford 'decent' living standards

Couples with two children need to earn almost £37,000 a year to afford basic food, clothes and leisure activities, according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Due to the increase in basic costs such as food, transport and childcare, they calculate that families need to be earning on average one third more than in 2008 to maintain the standard of living when a similar lifestyle would have cost just £27,792. 

The recent government changes to the tax credit system combined with soaring basic costs, mean that families are amongst those hardest hit by the recession.  They calculate that during the past four years living costs have risen 16% faster than inflation

The cost of childcare outside of London has risen from £2.70 per hour in 2008 to £3.50 at today’s rates.  Cuts to public transport and increased fares for existing services mean that for those with young children, having a car is now seen as ‘essential’ and adds to the pressure on family budgets.

The Foundation report stressed that the figure of £36,800 covered only the basics which would allow families to meet ‘socially accepted norms’.  These included basic healthy food, occasional clothes shopping, a cheap mobile phone and one holiday a year self-catering in the UK.

There is evidence that families are cutting back where they can on spending on social trips and birthday and Christmas presents whilst still trying to sustain socially accepted norms in other areas such as a family holiday.  The report’s co-author Donald Hirsch said:

“People are being more modest in terms of what they think needs to be spent on participating in society, but this thrift has been outweighed by rising costs.  Parents have not changed their view of most needs, including a nutritious diet and participating in activities vital for social inclusion.  What has changed is the ability of many families to afford such essentials”.

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