Definitions of Poverty
Poverty is a complex and multi faceted issue. In order to help
break it down the following definitions are used to help take
account of the fact that people experience poverty in a range of
Relative poverty This is where some people's
low income means that they struggle to participate in 'ordinary'
economic, social and cultural activities. What this means will vary
from country to country, depending on the standard of living
enjoyed by the majority. In Scotland relative poverty is determined
as those earning less than 60% of the national average. While not
as extreme as absolute poverty, relative poverty is still serious
Absolute poverty This is when people lack the
basic necessities for survival. For instance they may be starving,
lack clean water, proper housing, sufficient clothing or medicines.
There is debate in some areas around whether absolute poverty
exists in the UK. In Scotland absolute poverty is deemed as earning
less than 60% of what the average wage was in 1998/99. This
determines whether those who are on the lowest income have seen a
rise in what they take home in real terms over the last ten
In-work poverty The working poor are those
individuals and families who maintain regular employment but remain
in relative poverty due to low levels of pay and dependent
expenses. This group contains non-working household members such as
children and non-working partners.
Combined low income and material deprivation
Material deprivation' reflects whether people can afford to buy
certain items and participate in leisure or social activities. This
measure is applied to households with incomes below seventy per
cent of average income to create the 'material deprivation and low
income combined' indicator. This indicator aims to provide a
measure of living standards which, unlike relative and absolute
poverty, is not solely based on income.
Persistent poverty This is defined as being in
relative poverty in three out of the last four consecutive years.
This measure is designed to detect people who are consistently in
poverty over a long period, rather than those which dip in and out