Mobile Phones As A Measure Of Poverty

There are frequent reports of rising poverty increasing use of food banks etc. Taken at face value you could be forgiven for thinking that a significant proportion of the population is destitute.

There are 14m in the UK in poverty according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that is 22% of the population.

As ever the question is where you draw the line defining “poverty”, and it is a relative concept. If you chose to define “Poverty” as having fewer than 2 Rolls Royces, most of us will be “Poor”. If you pick “Prepared to eat a live coackroach” it would be a much smaller number, so small a number as to be significantly influenced by Z-List celebrities in the Jungle trying to make it onto the C-List.

So how about a fair and sensible metric – have you got enough money to provide yourself with luxuries?  Luxuries like the ability to regularly access the internet, email, send messages, and talk to people from wherever you are? Choosing to pay for them implicitly means you aren’t down to a cockroach chasing non luxury lifestyle. They are also the sort of “little luxuries” that would have seemed like impossible magical bounty 50 years ago.

Which is interesting given that 95% of UK adults have a mobile phone.  The missing 5% are mostly over 65 so it’s lifestyle choice – never had one – rather than economic. Roughly half of children do, which is consistent with such possession being an age based choice rather than a “Child Poverty” issue. Some 90%+ of those are smart phones.  This is also consistent with the estimated 45m regular social medial users in the UK, which if you run the numbers by age is around 90% of all of those that could possibly actually use social media.

So Top whack, less than 5% of the UK population is in sufficient poverty that they have given up luxuries, including their phones, in order to get food.

We can all feel a little happier about the country we live in not being as destitute as it’s often made out to be.

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Matt Ryan
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Matt Ryan

But, but, but, the Internet is a basic necessity now to access services (and cat videos). People are probably giving up food to be able to send pictures of their bits to their friends.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

Maybe a better metric would be something like: do you use free cable/feesat and not paid-for cable/satellite (I cancelled my pay-for cable over a decade ago), have they sold their tools in order to buy food (a friend dispaired at selling his computer in the early-1990s in order to afford to stay alive, as it killed off his ability to use his skills to progress to a state of being able to earn money to afford to stay alive).

Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

So Top whack, less than 5% of the UK population is in sufficient poverty that they have given up luxuries, including their phones, in order to get food.

I can pick up a phone for free. The metric you need is the number of people PAYING to remain connected.

Which, I guess would be smaller than 95% of the population. But probably larger than any activist definition of poverty. Incidentally, I see that activists are now using the term ‘relative poverty’. Which is handy, because until we are all equal* there will always be relative poverty.

*TM – Socialists’R’Us…

timworstall
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timworstall

I’m afraid they’ve already got you there. All measures of poverty in the UK are “relative” poverty. Less than 60% of median household income, adjusted for household size. Usually – sometimes 50%. All hte figures you see, child poverty, 10% of people in poverty, rising poverty – they’re all that relative poverty.

Because of actual poverty – the global definition being less than $1.90 a day – Britain simply doesn’t have any and hasn’t for a century.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

60% of median household income is full-time minimum wage. So anybody working part time minimum wage or signing on the dole is, by that definition, in poverty. Bizarrly, so am I on a very comfortable 9K a year.

Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

Ah! I never realised that it was used under all circumstances. That makes sense – as you say, there would be no work for the activists if they used any kind of sensible measure. The obvious job to be in is maintaining the statistics to keep this growing army in work. I assume that if so long as there are some very rich people around, the figures will look impressive. I propose that we set up a Foundation for Very Rich Persons, enrol ourselves in it and ask for funding from all the poverty associations so that we can shift… Read more »