Changing nature of poverty and employment

The nature of poverty, work and social protection in Scotland is undergoing a period of rapid and significant change.

Our research explores these issues in relation to their potential influences on population health and wellbeing.

In-work poverty

An important emergent trend which is central to our focus on the relationship between poverty and employment has been the increasing rates of 'in-work poverty'. Although the proportion of the population experiencing poverty has been reducing in Scotland in recent years, the percentage of families living in poverty, where at least one family member works, has increased substantially. These families are described as experiencing in-work poverty and represent an important subgroup of Scottish society for three pressing reasons:

1) Although in-work poverty is not a new occurrence, it has received limited attention in the UK in terms of research and policy focus.

2) Second, the UK welfare system is going through a period of considerable retrenchment. Many of the new welfare reforms will see significantly reduced levels of support for working-age populations, including those experiencing in-work poverty.

3) Third, very little consideration has been given to improving our understanding of the specific pathways between in-work poverty and health and wellbeing.

Contemporary employment

Contributing towards the increase in in-work poverty, there has been an evidenced increase in low-paid, short-term and precarious employment across Europe. These changes have been seen in Scotland and have largely been driven by globalisation; however the recent economic recession and the evidenced shift towards an economy dominated by the service sector have further compromised labour market stability in Scotland.

National and localised analyses presented within the in-work poverty paper support that fundamental changes to the nature of employment in Scotland have occurred. Rates of temporary and part-time work are increasing across Scotland and part-time work rising dramatically within Glasgow.

Women are more likely to be in part-time work, compared with men, however the concept of underemployment (for example, wishing to move from a temporary to a permanent job contract) is a growing concern for both genders: as of 2011, over a third of all temporary workers in Scotland would like, but cannot find, a permanent job.

Payday lending

Payday lending is a controversial practice which refers to short-term loans for small amounts of money with high interest rates and fees. Payday lending is targeted toward employed, lower income, high-risk borrowers. Our briefing paper brings together evidence to further the understanding of the potential population health impacts of payday lending.

Third sector workforce challenges

Glasgow’s third sector workforce faces a range of challenges that includes responding to economic austerity, welfare reforms, and the changing nature of paid work. The changing nature of work in the third sector in Glasgow study explores the interaction between health, work and life within Glasgow’s third sector workforce.

The study aims to increase understanding of labour market changes, including employment conditions and household income. The study also identifies organisational changes, such as demands for services, and resource availability.