Monday, 29 November 2010

Report highlights rural poverty while AWB is scrapped

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s minimum income standard has recently released this report outlined the problems of rural poverty.

The report states that:

‘while the rate of income poverty is lower in rural than in urban
areas, it is growing faster in rural areas than elsewhere. A higher
incidence of low pay in many peripheral and more remote rural
areas increases risks of in-work poverty. There is evidence to
suggest that rural low income families may face higher costs for
certain essentials such as food and transport than their urban
counterparts. At the same time, however, there is limited
systematic evidence about how needs and costs vary in relation
to rurality. This report presents the findings of research designed
to examine what rural households need, to achieve the same
living standards as urban households.’

Anyone who lives in the countryside knows that poverty is more invisible in the sticks, there may be less widespread deprivation but it is masked in beautiful rolling hills. While the rural poor find themselves in relatively similar circumstances to the urban poor, access to facilities such as hospitals, schools, and other cultural and sporting such as museums and swimming pools is limited.

The only way to get to any of these facilities or the supermarket is to drive, or for those who cannot afford it-a position that people make huge sacrifices to avoid-use appalling irregular and expensive public transport. For instance, the village I grew up in had a bus to Yeovil that only came three times a week.

This position is further complicated by the nature of employment in the countryside, which is often low paid, temporary and seasonal-especially for jobs in the agricultural sector. Since 1923 the Agricultural Wage Board (AWB) has set the wages, terms and conditions for agricultural workers, who number around 154,000-although this figure is constantly changing and varies enormously.

Unite national officer, Ian Waddell, has said: "Even the Thatcher and Major governments didn’t go as far as scrapping the Agricultural Wages Board, recognising that rural workers need protection if food supplies are to be secure. Unite is building a broad alliance across rural communities to oppose the government's decision.

"The government's decision to press ahead with abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board will have dire consequences for farming and farm workers. Living standards across rural communities in England and Wales will fall as a result.

“Agriculture is critical to food supplies in this country and we have very real concerns. There is already a shortage of skilled labour and this will only be exacerbated if wages are under pressure, jeopardising our food security.”

Unite and Country Standard have organized a campaign against the scrapping of the AWB, all progressives are urged to join their fight.

The Minimum Income Standard report can be accessed here: