The Welsh Government has identified Rural Poverty as a priority area for evidence and our own preliminary analysis of existing research confirmed that there is a need for better evidence to address this important issue. We have therefore been undertaking an internal review of Rural Poverty as part of our exploration of What Works in Tackling Poverty. The first part of this review looks at the issues surrounding rural poverty before later papers will explore the interventions used to address them and how successful they have been.
The findings from our initial review revealed that whilst the manifestations of rural and urban poverty are sometimes similar, their causes and scale are often different. Key contributory factors include the fragility of some rural economies, poor access to employment opportunities and public services, low pay, a lack of affordable housing and social isolation.
The low skills base of some rural economies is known to act as a barrier to economic growth and limited employment opportunities can result in the out-migration of skilled workers. Lack of training opportunities can also contribute to keeping incomes low. The prevalence of low paid and fragile employment contributes to the risk of in-work poverty.
Limited access to services makes it difficult for some individuals to secure employment or mitigate the impact of poverty. Public transport in many rural areas is infrequent, inadequate and more expensive than elsewhere. This means that it difficult for those without private transport to travel for work. A lack of affordable and available childcare in rural areas and limited access to the internet are also seen as barriers to employment opportunities.
There is a ‘rural premium’ on some key goods and services due to a lack of competitive markets for food, fuel, energy and transport which exacerbates rural poverty. Rural households are known to be particularly susceptible to fuel poverty. Fixed housing costs often absorb a large proportion of low household incomes and many rural areas have a lack of affordable housing.
The Welsh Government collects a lot of data which gives an insight into the distribution of rural poverty. However, there are significant gaps in the evidence base. These include an understanding of people’s experiences of rural poverty and robust evaluation of the impact of interventions designed to address it.
The next stage if this research will explore in more detail the interventions that have been used to tackle these issues, the robustness of their evaluations and how effective they have been in addressing rural poverty.
To read the report, click here.