13. Before we go any further we need to define how
we have interpreted 'poverty'. Our intention at the start of the
inquiry was to utilise a simple, understandable approach which
concentrated on lack of resources. There is a danger noted by
the Scottish Low Pay Unit of lapsing into jargon and creating
a language which has no meaning for those to whom it is directed.
On the other hand it is essential to provide a clear and precise
understanding of what is being identified.
14. There are basically three current definitions
of poverty in common usage: absolute poverty, relative poverty
and social exclusion. Absolute poverty is defined as the lack
of sufficient resources with which to keep body and soul together.
Relative poverty defines income or resources in relation to the
average. It is concerned with the absence of the material needs
to participate fully in accepted daily life. Social exclusion
is a new term used by the EU and the Government, broadly related
to relative poverty it includes the causes and effects of poverty.
The Prime Minister described social exclusion as "A short
hand label for what can happen when individuals or areas suffer
from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor
skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad
health and family breakdown".
15. The Child Poverty Action Group, which uses the
relative measure of poverty, said that one of the problems with
using the term 'social exclusion' is that the direct connection
with lack of money captured in definitions of poverty may be lost.
In support, the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty
believed that any approach which did not put lack of adequate
income at the centre of any anti-poverty strategy would have limited
16. Scottish Enterprise argued that whilst social
exclusion has to do with poverty and joblessness it is broader
than that. It incorporates lack of access to opportunity involving
jobs, homes, education, leisure, health and civic organisation.
Social Exclusion is a complex, multi-dimensional, multi-layered,
often geographically-concentrated, condition. Long-term deprivation,
especially where successive generations are affected, is central
to social exclusion.
Professor Shucksmith described social exclusion as a dynamic concept
which implied a focus on failures within societal systems as well
as on victims.
It is perhaps worth making the point that poverty can be measured
in reasonably unambiguous ways. Measuring social exclusion is
17. When we took evidence from the Scottish Poverty
Information Unit they said that there was no need to become over-concerned
with a perfect definition. More important was what ultimately
We believe this to be sound advice.
18. The bureaucratic or sociological stretching of
language can sometimes camouflage the issue at hand. Our understanding
is that to be in poverty is to be poor. Poor people cannot afford
basic necessities, including those related to social activities.
In this sense we are, in current terminology, using relative poverty
as our working definition. We agree with Professor Shucksmith
who said in his memorandum "Poverty is an outcome, denoting
an inability to share in the everyday lifestyles of the majority
because of a lack of resources (often taken to be disposable income)".
19. As well as defining what we mean by poverty we
should also say something about how poverty is measured. There
are two key measures in common use. One uses the statistics available
for those dependent on income support. The other is based on households
with below half the UK average earnings.
This data is readily available internationally. We therefore feel
that the second measure probably provides a more reliable indicator
of people living in poverty; additionally it allows a more straightforward
comparison with other countries to be made. It also allows change
to be monitored over a period of time.
15 Ev. pp167-168, paras 10-17. Back
Poverty in Scotland: Scottish Poverty Information Unit,
1999, p4. Back
Opportunity for All: Department of Social Security, 1999,
Cm 4445, p23. Back
Ev. p212, paras 3-6. Back
Ev. p92, para 3. Back
A Strategic Framework for Economic Inclusion: Scottish
Enterprise, December 1999, para 2.1, p5. Back
Ibid. See alsoQ5 and Q460. Back
Ev. p108, para 12. Back
Ev. p108, para 12. Back
See for example, Ev. pp 255-256, paras 7-14; Poverty in Scotland:
Scottish Poverty Information Unit, 1999; Q313. Back