Child Poverty: Age


Concerns surrounding child poverty naturally focus upon the experiences of young people. However, the underpinning cause of child poverty is broader poverty and social inequality. Furthermore, children have little choice in their upbringing. Insofar as they cannot control the social, cultural and economic circumstances they are born into.

Although attempts to overcome child poverty rightly focus upon children, child poverty is both an outcome and cause of poverty. Therefore, this section should not be viewed in isolation, but rather, in conjunction with the following:

Child poverty can be considered as form of poverty that both impacts children’s day to day lives, but also limits their future life opportunities. The following diagram provides a visual overview of this self-perpetuating cycle of inequality:


Key Facts and Figures: Glasgow

Since the 2001 Census, Glasgow has experienced a number of changes in regards to the age profile of its citizens:

Age Group Pop. Of Glasgow (2011) % of total pop. of Glasgow (2011) % change since 2001 % change in Scotland since 2001
0–15 95,627 18.4 -10.2 -5.7
16–29 144,766 21.2 +18 +10.7
30–44 129,266 23.7 -5.6 -9.2
45–64 141,421 20.9 +16.8 +17.4
65+ 82,165 15.7 -9.4 +10.6
Total population 593,245   +2.7 +4.6

Source: Glasgow City Council. 2013. Briefing paper 2011 Census — Release 1 — Results for Glasgow City Council.

The 2011 census demonstrates significant growth within the 16-29 age groups, nearly 8 percentage points higher than the national average.

Within this group, particularly those in the 16-24 age brackets, people tend to be under-represented within the labour market. Research also demonstrates that they are under-paid, and are over represented in terms of welfare claims.

This may be a result of child poverty. Research continually demonstrates poorer educational, employment and economic outcomes for those who are born into poverty.


In 2012:

33.4%, or 36,000 children lived in poverty in Glasgow.

This is more than double the rate of Aberdeen, and nearly twice the rate of Edinburgh.

Presenting poverty as cyclical, or self-perpetuating, raises a number of concerns regarding young peoples ability to escape broader poverty.

Insofar as, one in three children live in poverty within Glasgow and nearly one in five adults live in poverty within Scotland. This suggests a range of social, structural and institutional barriers limit social mobility, at both a local and national level.

Ultimately, child poverty does not occur independently of poverty: it is the result of poverty.

Source: GCPH. 2014. Glasgow Indicators Project: Child Poverty

Glasgow possesses two constituencies in the top 20 areas for child poverty within the UK. Glasgow North East and Glasgow Central.

Source: End Child Poverty. 2013. Child Poverty Map of the UK.


Broader Discussions: Employment Rates

The following table provides a detailed breakdown of employment rates, by age, within both Scotland and Glasgow.

  Glasgow employment rate Glasgow employment level Scotland employment rate Scotland employment level
16–24 41.4% 32,900 52.6% 311,900
25–34 77.1% 88,600 79.1% 551,900
35–49 73.5% 90,100 81.7% 867,400
50–64 51.7% 49,600 64.9% 675,200
All aged 16 and over 52.9% 261,900 57.8% 2,481,300
16–64 63.3% 261,200 71.0% 2,406,300

Source: ONS: Glasgow Employment Rate by Age 2013

Young people within Glasgow and Scotland are significantly under-represented within the labour market. Glasgow in particular performs lower than the national average, by over 10 percentage points.

Below average (national), employment levels are replicated throughout the age groups, with the 50-64 brackets significantly lower within Glasgow.

Subsequently, the issue of child poverty could be presented as magnified within the city. Adults and young people are under-represented within the labour market when compared to the national average.

This under-representation contributes to not only poverty amongst the adult population, but can also be considered the direct cause of child poverty. For children born into poverty this presents a number of significant concerns. Ultimately, children have no choice in their economic situation, and once reaching adulthood, face numerous difficulties in accessing the labour market.

Ultimately, a range of social, cultural, structural and institutional barriers restrict access to the labour market. Broadly speaking, embedded socio-economic inequality clearly contributes to the disparity of life opportunities, and standards of living, which characterises contemporary society.


Key Facts and Figures: Scotland

In 2012/2013:

19%, or 180,000 children within Scotland live in poverty before housing costs.

After housing costs, this figure rises to 22%, or 220,000.

Source: Scottish Government. 2014. Poverty and Inequality in Scotland: 2012/2013.


Entering the Labour Market

The Scottish Government (2014) have recognised the potential social and economic consequences of youth unemployment and underemployment. They have recently developed a specific commission focusing on the development of Scotland’s young workforce.

Within this, the following data emerged:

  • 53,000 young people are not in work or education.
  • Only 27% of employers offer work experience.
  • Only 28% of employers recruit direct from education.
  • Only 13% of employers take on apprenticeships.

Although this may initially appear unconnected to issues of child poverty, the data demonstrates the difficulties young people face once reaching adulthood. The data doesn’t differentiate between young people who have, or haven’t experienced poverty.

However, broader research continually demonstrates poverty as cyclical. Those born into poverty face numerous difficulties in escaping poverty, or put another way, achieving social mobility.

For example, the 16-24 year age group experience disproportionate outcomes in regards to the labour market and economic earnings. To provide further context, research demonstrates communities experiencing the highest levels of poverty as achieving lower outcomes than more affluent peers in this age group.

In this regard, poverty can be considered as self-perpetuating. Through reproducing economic, social and cultural inequality, poverty possesses the inherent ability to create more poverty.

Source: Scottish Government. 2014. Education for All! Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce – Final Report.

Data from the Annual Population Survey in 2012 reinforces the need to consider the disproportionate levels of unemployment experienced by the 16-24 age group:

  • 207,000 people aged 16 and over unemployed in Scotland
  • This equates to a decrease of 6,000 over the year, but an increase of 76,700 since the start of the recession in 2008.
  • Youth unemployment (16-24) is 20.6% is the highest of all age groups, but the least likely (11.6%) to be unemployed for 24 months or more.
  • Put another way, approximately 4 in 10 young people are unemployed.
  • The unemployment rate of 20.6% for young people in Scotland is 0.5 percentage points higher than the UK rate.
  • Since 2008, this rate has increased by 7.0 percentage points, higher than the UK rate of 5.1 over the same period.

Consideration should also be given to the opposite end of the age spectrum. In which:

  • 27.9% of the 50+ age group have been unemployed for 24 months or more, the highest of all age groups. 

    Source: Scottish Government. 2013. Statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2012.


    Key Facts and Figures: UK

    To provide further context, recent estimates (2013) detail the potential costs of child poverty in the UK:

    • £15bn per year is spent on services to deal with consequences of child poverty.
    • £3.5bn per year is lost in tax receipts, as a result of people earning less, having grown up in poverty.
    • £2.4bn per year is spent on benefits, for people who are out of work as a result of living in poverty.
    • £8.5bn per year is lost in private post-tax earnings, by adults who have grown up in poverty.

    The economic impact of child poverty is clearly detrimental to not only those experiencing poverty, but to society as a whole. Further research demonstrates child poverty as a cause of reduced educational and economic attainment, which in turn limits social mobility. Viewed holistically, child poverty can be considered as an underpinning factor in a range of negative economic, social and cultural outcomes.

    Please note, the figures provided are updates on 2008 research, conducted by Donald Hirsh on behalf of the Joseph Foundation. The estimates provided are classed as ‘cautious estimates’, representing the authors perspective of the “minimum cost” of child poverty, as opposed to a speculative figure. Full details of the underpinning calculations are available within the 2008 document.

    Source: Donald Hirsh. 2013. Estimated Costs of Child Poverty. Loughborough University.

    Source: Donald Hirsh. 2008. Estimating the Cost of Child Poverty. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

    Examining the number of jobs and average earnings within each age bracket provides another perspective of child poverty, and more generally, poverty:

      Number of jobs (thousands) Median weekly wage Annual percentage change Mean weekly wage Annual percentage change
    All employees 24,473 416.5 +2.6 502.2 +2.2
    18–21 1,212 171.0 -1.8 193.7 +0.8
    22–29 4,144 366.5 +1.5 401.7 +1.9
    30–39 5,579 483.0 +0.8 552.4 +1.6
    40–49 6,487 478.3 +2.1 577.6 +2.1
    50–59 5,063 444.4 +3.2 550.9 +2.3
    60+ 1,811 329.9 +3.1 419.4 +3.5

    ONS: Median and Mean Wage, by age, UK

    The 18-29 age bracket earn significantly less than the remainder of the population, however this could be considered representative of the need to progress through the labour market.

    Despite this, the data demonstrates the barriers young people face in entering the labour market. Not only are there significantly less 18-21 year olds employed, but, in terms of the number of jobs, they have experienced the lowest annual percentage increase.

    This once again highlights the difficulties young people (particularly those born into poverty) face when trying to escape poverty through the labour market.

    Source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Office for National Statistics.


    Broader Discussions: Birth Rates

    It should also be noted that Glasgow has the second highest rate of births to mothers under the age of 24 within Scotland, at 28%. This is slightly behind Dundee (35%), slightly more than the national average (25%), Aberdeen (23%) and significantly higher than Edinburgh, 18%.

    Considering the previous discussions focusing upon access to the labour market and levels of pay, this presents a further dimension to the issue of child poverty. More specifically, rising costs of living and the cost of raising a child, in conjunction with low pay and difficulty in securing employment, could result in a growing number of young parents struggling financially within the city.

    Source: Glasgow Indicators Project (National Records for Scotland 2007-2011).

    Ultimately, child poverty can be considered as form of poverty that both impacts children’s day to day lives, but also limits their future life opportunities. This process can be considered as fundamental to the self-perpetuating nature of poverty.