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23 November 2010 | PR 10/178

Country life: tougher to make ends meet

People living in rural areas typically need to spend 10-20 per cent more than people in urban areas to reach a minimum acceptable living standard, according to new research carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University for the Commission for Rural Communities.

These higher costs mean a single person living in a village needs to earn at least 50% above the minimum wage (£5.93 per hour) to make ends meet. With low pay more common in rural areas, many rural workers fall well short of being able to afford their essential needs.

The research was carried out by the same team at Loughborough University that calculates the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom. This standard is based on what items ordinary people think households need to afford a minimum acceptable standard of living. The researchers talked to groups of people in rural England about what things are essential in rural towns, villages and hamlets.

The findings illustrate that the more remote the area, the greater the extra expense. To afford a minimum standard of living, a single person needs to earn at least:

In comparison, urban dwellers need £14,400, to meet the specified minimum.

The report also found:

For some people the picture is even starker: the largest additional budgets in the study are required by couple parents with two children. In a hamlet this family needs £72.20 more per week than a similar urban family. An online calculator at www.minimumincome.org.uk allows individuals to work out their minimum earnings requirement adjusted for the number and ages of people in their household and whether they live in a city, town, village or hamlet.

The higher costs of living in rural areas contrast with widespread low rural pay. A worker in a rural district has a one in four higher chance of being low paid than someone in an urban district.

Report author Dr Noel Smith, Acting Director of Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy said: “This research shows many similarities in the living patterns and minimum expectations of people in rural and urban parts of the United Kingdom. However, people in rural areas identified some crucial differences, particularly their transport needs. In most cases, they consider cars to be essential, whereas discussions among residents of urban areas concluded that a combination of buses and the occasional taxi could meet minimum travel requirements. Another important reality of rural areas is the extra cost to heat traditional rural housing without gas central heating, compared to modern city homes.

“We were struck by the gap between how much people would need to earn to meet these rural requirements and the level of some of the wages actually available. Workers in the most basic rural jobs can work very hard yet still fall well short of what they need for an acceptable standard of living.”

Nicola Lloyd, Executive Director at the Commission for Rural Communities, said: “Although it is now widely recognised that one in five rural households experience poverty, this is the first time we’ve also had reliable data to show the minimum cost of living in the countryside is higher than in the city. The rural minimum income standard clearly shows that many ordinary families living in rural areas will struggle to afford the everyday essentials; for some this will make rural life unsustainable.

“The high cost of transport and household fuel are likely to be particular problems for rural families with low incomes. The CRC’s recent work on fuel poverty and promoting greater energy efficiency offers ways for government and others to help to reduce these costs. We would also like to see developments which lessen the need for expensive travel to reach essential services, such as greater access to broadband and mobile technology, and creative solutions to providing employment and services closer to home.”

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Chief Executive, Julia Unwin CBE, said: “We know cuts in public expenditure and the impact of the recession is putting pressure on services, employers and families, and many people find it hard to make ends meet.

“This important research helps to show how disadvantage is not just an urban phenomenon. If society is to agree that people in rural areas should be able to meet a minimum income standard, then we need to start planning for that now, so that improvements in the economy can be reflected in better living standards for people whether they are in cities, towns, villages, or beyond.”


For all media enquiries contact:

Phil Morcom
Senior Media Manager
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
T: 01904 615 950, M: 07816 893 061
E: phil.morcom@jrf.org.uk


Hannah Baldwin
Head of PR
Loughborough University
T: 01509 222239
E: H.E.Baldwin@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

  1. The full report and findings: 'A minimum income standard for rural households’ is available to download for free from www.jrf.org.uk

  2. Examples of what a household living in a village needs for a minimum income. Figures in brackets are for an urban area, for comparison.
               Single person, working age, no children:
    -          Need: £207 a week to spend after paying rent (urban £175)
    -          Required earnings: £17,900 a year (£14,400)
    -          Required wage if works full time: £9.14 (£7.38)
    -          Current National Minimum Wage: £5.93

               Couple, one working full time, one not working, two children aged 3 and 7:
    -          Need: £462 a week to spend after paying rent (urban £403)
    -          Required earnings: £34,200 a year (£29,200)
    -          Required wage: £17.48 (£14.95)
    -          Current National Minimum Wage: £5.93

    Note that this means that a single earner in a village would have to earn about three times the Minimum Wage to afford a minimum living standard. Another choice is for both parents to work, in which case their wages would not have to be so high, although they would require higher combined earnings to cover childcare costs:

               Couple, both working full time, two children aged 3 and 7:
    -          Need: £462 a week to spend after paying for rent and childcare
    (urban £403)
    -          Required earnings: £40,100 a year between the two of them
    -          Required wage: £10.25 an hour (£7.60)
    -          Current National Minimum Wage: £5.93
             Lone parent, one child aged 1:
    -          Need: £267 a week to spend after rent and childcare (urban
    -          Required earnings: £19,400 a year (£12,500)
    -          Required wage if works full time: £9.94 an hour (£6.37)
    -          Current National Minimum Wage: £5.93

  3. Figures on pay are calculations from Kayte Lawton, Nice work if you can get it, IPPR, 2009, p19.

  4. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is one of largest social policy research and development charities in the UK. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) work together to understand the root causes of social problems, identify ways of overcoming them, and show how social needs can be met in practice. www.jrf.org.uk

  5. JRF is on Twitter. Keep up to date with news and comments at www.twitter.com/jrf_uk

  6. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust are completely separate from the other two Trusts set up by Joseph Rowntree in 1904; the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd (JRRT). Further information about each organisation can be found at www.josephrowntree.org.

  7. The Commission for Rural Communities is a statutory body funded by government to help ensure that policies, programmes and decisions take proper account of the circumstances of rural communities. We are required to have a particular focus on disadvantaged people and areas suffering from economic under-performance.  The CRC has three key functions:
        - Advocate: acting as a voice for rural people, businesses and communities;
        - Expert adviser: giving evidence-based, objective advice to government and others; and
        - Independent watchdog: monitoring and reporting on the delivery of policies nationally, regionally and locally.

  8. On 29 June 2010, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that the Commission for Rural Communities is to be abolished during 2011. A new Rural Communities Policy Unit will be established within Defra. Its main functions will be:
        - supporting ministers;
        - acting as a centre of rural expertise;
        - championing rural needs and issues across government departments and other bodies; and
        - working with the civic sector to promote rural solutions at the local level.

    The CRC is working with Defra to identify which of its activities and staff will move into the unit.

  9. The Report’s authors and spokespeople from CRC and JRF will be available for interview.

  10. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

    It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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