EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Working poor

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Originally an American concept, the 'working poor' refers to those who are working but remain below the poverty threshold. Despite an increasing level of attention both at national and European level there is as yet, however, no generally accepted definition of the 'working poor'.

Employment is often claimed to be the best protection against poverty. Nevertheless, in the European Union, 8% of the employed population fell into the category of ‘working poor’ in 2007, in the sense of having an income below 60% of the national median.

The problem of working poverty has become more pressing in a European Union with 27 Member States, given the higher incidence of the phenomenon in the new Member States.

The recent comparative analytical report  Working poor in Europe (EWCO 2010) covers the nature and extent of in-work poverty, the main trends and research studies, and the views of the social partners. Although there is little evidence to prove it to date, the working poor are likely to have been particularly affected by the current economic recession.