The scandal of child poverty in the UKMarch 3, 2014
Recently, news of child poverty in the UK has been in the headlines again. It is a sad reflection on a failing government and a failing economic system, which, by casting a generation on the scrap heap even before they have grown up, fulfils Marx’s prediction that “the bourgeoisie produce[s], above all…its own gravediggers.” It is things like this that show how ripe society is for socialist revolution. Capitalism is thoroughly rotten and people are getting sick of those politicians who continue to defend it. It is through education in the ideas Marxism and fighting for socialism that we can offer a genuine future to today’s youth.
The ever-increasing problem of child poverty and food bank usage, which has notably soared since the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition formed government in 2010, is a major concern in Britain today. “Rising cost of living, static incomes, changes to benefits, underemployment and unemployment have meant increasing numbers of people in the UK have hit a crisis,”1 writes the Trussell Trust, a UK-based charity that is aimed at ‘tackling poverty and exclusion in the UK and Bulgaria’.
According to official figures released by the Trussell Trust, food bank usage in 2010/11 was at 61,468 people resorting to food aid. In 2011/12, the number relying on food aid more than doubled, with 128,697 people claiming food support. However, in 2012/13, the use of food aid almost tripled, with a staggering 346,992 people claiming food support from the Trussell Trust food banks alone.2
This absolutely damning set of figures is a reflection of the failings of capitalism. On a worldwide scale there is more than enough food to provide for everyone – estimates state that there is “enough food … produced twice over every year than is needed to feed the world,”3 – but despite this, there is still hunger and starvation is rampant. Even the nations that claim to be economically advanced cannot feed their own people sufficiently; and, as if this wasn’t enough, they are insistent that people’s food supplies are surrendered to the will of private companies and market economics. It is sickening but unsurprising that the capitalists thirst for profit extends even to the world’s food supply. In this, they have us by the throat.
And that’s not all.
According to the research from various sources, collected by Child Poverty Action Group4, there are currently 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK alone – that is 27% of children.5
It is now also a known fact that even work does not provide a way out of poverty and hunger, with two-thirds – or around 66% – of children growing up in poverty living in a house where at least one person works.6
The bourgeois media will try, time and time again, to encourage this squeeze on the most vulnerable in society, i.e. the working class, foreign nationals, the impoverished and their children. TV programmes such as Benefits Street prove that.
Further research suggests “Poverty is also related to more complicated health histories over the course of a lifetime … influencing earning as well as the overall quality – and indeed length – of life. Professionals live, on average, eight years longer than unskilled workers.”7 Clearly poverty will stunt the health, development and ability of children, who have absolutely no control over the situation in which they’re born into.
There is further research collected by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that also cites data from UNICEF. According to them “[the UK is] 14th out of 29 countries in a league table of children’s material wellbeing”8.
Attempts to end child poverty, such as those conducted by bourgeois-liberal governments, have included most recently all political parties signing the ‘Child Poverty Act’, which pledges to end child poverty by 2020. Despite this, research conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that by 2015/16, 600,000 more children will live in poverty; and by 2020, it is projected that around 4.7 million children will be living in poverty.9
The research, statistics and facts presented here completely contradict the aims of the Child Poverty Act. Despite the efforts of the liberals, it is a fact that child poverty – and, for that matter, poverty in general – will never be eradicated under capitalism. The inevitable inequality, the anarchy of production, the wastage and dumping of surplus goods (in an attempt to stop the goods losing all their value) and the unemployment (to name but a few) will always exist, as these things are part of the nature of capitalism.
It is an economic fact that, to force prices down and to stop cost-push inflation (i.e. the price increase that happens when a firm’s costs of production increase – often done in order to maintain a profit), firms must strangle wages and keep them as low as possible – low enough to make a huge profit, and ultimately low enough to ensure that people simply meet the basic needs to maintain their existence (as proven in the figures listed earlier), but high enough to keep people believing in the fallacy of meritocracy, so high enough to keep them passive. This is the logic of the capitalists and it is only through the organised struggle of the working class that this can be resisted. The only reason why wages are higher than mere subsistence levels is thanks to the trade union and organised labour movement.
To end child poverty we must continue this struggle to end capitalism, end oppression and end wage slavery! Ours is a fight for a great leap forward in human progress and a brighter future for all!
by Samuel Connelley
1trusselltrust.org, Statistics for the financial year 2012-2013
2Statistics collected from the bar diagram in Statistics for the financial year 2012-2013 by the Trussell Trust
3actionaid.org, Food rights
4For further information, see Child poverty facts and figures by CPAG
5Department for Work and Pensions, 2013: Households below average income, an analysis of income distribution 1994/95 – 2011/12
6Department for Work and Pensions, 2013: Households below average income, an analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2011/12
7CPAG: Child poverty facts and figures; Office of National Statistics, October 2011: Life expectancy at birth and at the age of 65 by local areas in the UK, 2004-6 and 2008-10
8Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Child poverty in the UK
9Institute for Fiscal Studies and J. Browne, A. Hood, and R. Joyce: Child and working age poverty in Northern Ireland