Working lives: Experiences of in-work poverty in London

In the debate over in-work poverty, the human costs of living on low incomes often get lost. In-depth interviews with people in work and living below the poverty line present new insight on experience of in-work poverty in London.


  • In the past decade, in-work poverty has been a growing problem – especially in London, where in-work poverty is a structural challenge mainly due to the nature of many of the jobs available, the wages paid to those working in them and the high cost of living.
  • In-depth interviews with those in work and living below the poverty line reported some common problems and drivers. These included low earnings, insufficient hours, high and rising living costs, and caring responsibilities. The interviews focused primarily to the pivotal position of employers in worsening/alleviating poverty.
  • All participants said that businesses could be more understanding, caring, and proactive, particularly towards employees that earn less and are in greater need of support. Participants cited the need for better provisions for sick pay, flexibility, in-work progression and upskilling, sufficient hours and subsidies to cover the high cost of living in the capital.
  • The key takeaway from this report is that employees want – and need – their employers to do more to help tackle London’s in-work poverty problem.

The SMF is working with Trust for London to establish a business standard, one that encourages London employers to do more to help their staff and tackle working poverty. If you’re interested, do reach out to us at

Our previous report as part of the project – Capital concerns: Poverty in London and the role of business in helping tackle it


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