Mobile Phones As A Measure Of Poverty


There are frequent reports of rising poverty increasing use of food banks etc. Taken at face value you could be forgiven for thinking that a significant proportion of the population is destitute.

There are 14m in the UK in poverty according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that is 22% of the population.

As ever the question is where you draw the line defining “poverty”, and it is a relative concept. If you chose to define “Poverty” as having fewer than 2 Rolls Royces, most of us will be “Poor”. If you pick “Prepared to eat a live coackroach” it would be a much smaller number, so small a number as to be significantly influenced by Z-List celebrities in the Jungle trying to make it onto the C-List.

So how about a fair and sensible metric – have you got enough money to provide yourself with luxuries?  Luxuries like the ability to regularly access the internet, email, send messages, and talk to people from wherever you are? Choosing to pay for them implicitly means you aren’t down to a cockroach chasing non luxury lifestyle. They are also the sort of “little luxuries” that would have seemed like impossible magical bounty 50 years ago.

Which is interesting given that 95% of UK adults have a mobile phone.  The missing 5% are mostly over 65 so it’s lifestyle choice – never had one – rather than economic. Roughly half of children do, which is consistent with such possession being an age based choice rather than a “Child Poverty” issue. Some 90%+ of those are smart phones.  This is also consistent with the estimated 45m regular social medial users in the UK, which if you run the numbers by age is around 90% of all of those that could possibly actually use social media.

So Top whack, less than 5% of the UK population is in sufficient poverty that they have given up luxuries, including their phones, in order to get food.

We can all feel a little happier about the country we live in not being as destitute as it’s often made out to be.

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