Movable goalposts

Poverty is not a good thing. I can only guess this, since I’m not in poverty. I don’t think I ever have been; I’ve never been hungry and I’ve never had to forgo the basics of life because I haven’t had the money.

I have had to borrow money from people to cover till payday; I’ve taken a second job to ensure that I had a few quid for things that I wanted to buy. And I’ve certainly earned, for a while at least, under 60% of the average wage.

Here’s the thing, apparently that means I’ve been in poverty. Because that figure – 60% of the average wage – is something that the government is planning to lumber all future governments with.

Ministers are making it a legal duty for the government, local authorities and other organisations to help to end child poverty across the UK.

A new bill being published later will make it a duty to support families so that child poverty is eradicated by 2020, the goal set by Tony Blair.

The eradication of poverty is a wonderfully worthy aim, but the eradication of poverty by this definition is never going to be achievable. Some people will always earn more than the average, and some will earn less. That’s the point of an average, fer feck’s sake. To say that benefits, policies and good wishes can change the definition of an average is stupid. And to make every government department and charitable organisation bend over backwards to eradicate a basic reality of statistics is pointless.

Furthermore, how would you explain that definition of poverty to someone in the depths of sub-Saharan Africa? They may earn the average local wage, but not be able to get drinking water; how are they going to deal with the idea that someone with a car, a roof over their head, a job and running water is living in poverty?

It’s a careless metric, and it’s a poor one at that. And using it as the basis for massive state action without any more rationale behind it is bloody daft.

2 thoughts on “Movable goalposts

  1. Oh woe! Seems like Bert and I are very poor indeed. This, despite having a farm, three (filthy vehicles, one a tractor), many thousands of trees and clematis, our own spring, a bicycle, ten chickens, a pig and a bullock.

    And I seem to be able to afford to buy food every week and books. So I may be poor but I’m certainly not feeling it.

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