New poverty calculations for Wales released today (3 June) show that, as of the latest figures, 45% of unemployed people in Wales are under 25. Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Wales 2009, by the New Policy Institute for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, identifies trends in poverty statistics over the last ten years. It shows the unemployment rate for 2008 among 16- to 24-year-olds stood at 16%, compared with 6% for all working-age adults.
The recession and consequent unemployment have disproportionately affected some areas of Wales: in five areas, Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant numbers have doubled over the twelve months to March 2009. The six South Wales Valley local authorities, plus Newport and Bridgend, now have the highest proportions of claimants in Wales. In April 2009, Blaenau Gwent's rate was the highest for any local authority in the UK, while Merthyr Tydfil's rate placed it tenth in the list.
Report co-author, Peter Kenway from the New Policy Institute, said: "The most significant current aspect of the recession is the high level of unemployment among young adults in Wales. If this situation persists, the risk may be of a new generation lacking the experience, qualifications and self-belief to provide for themselves and their families."
The study shows that although the recession is undoubtedly increasing hardship, in some areas such as child poverty, poverty was rising in Wales even before the recession began.
By 2007/08, half the previous improvement in reducing child poverty achieved since the late 1990s had been lost. The Households Below Average Income figures for Wales show that the average proportion of children in poverty in 1998/99 stood at 36%. This reduced to a low point of 28% in 2005/06 but has increased to 32% in the latest figures (2007/08).
The study also points to a clear need to tackle in-work poverty: over the ten years to the mid-2000s, almost all the reduction in the number of children in low-income households in Wales occurred among those in workless families. This leaves as many children living in poverty in working families as in non-working ones.
Report co-author, Peter Kenway concluded: "A big concern now is how to slow down and reverse the trends recently seen in the Welsh economy to prevent even more people falling below the poverty line. It is vital, especially in the midst of a recession, that the needs of people living in poverty continue to be prioritised."