How much does a family of four need for a ‘decent’ standard of living?


How much does a family of four need for a ‘decent’ standard of living?The answer, according to a recent report, is £36,800 per year where the family is made up of two parents and two children.

For single parent families the figure falls to £23,900 per year.

The figure, known as the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), is given in a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and is a third higher than before the recession, emphasising the effects that the financial crisis has had on families.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Minimum Income Standard (MIS)

The MIS is the level of income which allows individuals and families to participate in everyday activities and have a socially acceptable standard of living and is set by members of the public interviewed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, then ratified by financial experts.

The figure has risen so dramatically due to the rising cost of living as well as cuts in various benefits. Rising transport and child care costs have hit families with children hard, who have to spend £455 per week on “essentials” according to the report, whilst cuts to tax credits and other benefits have reduced incomes for many.

The amount of money spent on essential items has risen by twice the rate of inflation since the start of the financial crisis with childcare being the largest single item of expenditure at an average cost of £182.40 per week, closely followed by housing costs at £148.99 per week.

Julia Unwin, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “Families have a monumental task trying to earn enough to get by. Parents facing low wages and pressure on their working time have little prospect of finding the extra money they need to meet growing household expenses.”

Donald Hirsch, co-author of the report, added: “People are being more modest in terms of what they think needs to be spent on participating in society, but this thrift has been outweighed by rising costs. Parents have not changed their view of most needs, including a nutritious diet and participation by children in activities vital for social inclusion. What has changed is the ability of many families to afford such essentials.”

Getting worse

It appears that the problem is getting worse for families with the gap between the income needed for a ‘decent’ standard of living and the minimum wage rising from 30% two years ago to 55% now.

The report says that a quarter of the population live below the MIS, up by three million since 2008 when the financial crisis started.

Reacting to the survey Oxfam’s Director of UK poverty, Chris Johnes, said: “We could see a generation of families that have to go without essentials. The government need to take action to protect the poorest families by reversing cuts to working tax credits and increasing the minimum wage. Work should always pay enough for families to be able afford to have a decent quality of life.”

Single people

The foundation also looked at the level of income a single person needed to “participate in society” and found the figure to be £16,400 per year; again significantly higher than the incomes received by those out of work or earning the minimum wage.