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Working but not well offPetras Gagilas via Flickr

New study finds young people are the new poor people

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovers sharp rise in the number of under-25s living in poverty

Tell your mother you were right all along: being young is no fun. A damning new study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has found a sharp increase in the number of young people living in poverty. For the first time ever, under-25s are more likely than pensioners to be living under the breadline. 

34% of 16–19 year olds now live in poverty, alongside 29% of 20–24 year olds. Both figures are up 6% in the last decade, with the Foundation describing the new findings as a "very worrying" trend for under-25s. 

While pensioners were once thought of as the group most likely to be poor, there's never been a better time to be a baby boomer: over-65s now have the lowest poverty rate of any age group. 

But what about if you're a young person in an actual job? Well, turns out that doesn't help either. According to the findings, there are now as many working families as unemployed ones who now live in poverty.

Researchers blame the rise in zero hours contracts – of which there are now 1.4 million – and part-time work for the trend. The average self-employed worker (or, in millenial-speak, "freelancer") earns 13% less than five years ago. Meanwhile, incomes have dropped by 9% on average in the last five years to 2013. 

Caught between falling incomes and spiralling living costs, many people are effectively trapped in low-paid employment for years. Depressingly, only 20% have managed to leave that bracket over the last decade.

Those living in poverty are also just as likely to be renting private accommodation as they are living in local authority or social housing – meaning that they stand a higher risk of eviction and homelessness.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of JRF, said: "This year's report shows a real change in UK society over a relatively short period of time. We are concerned that the economic recovery we face will still have so many people living in poverty."

Some 13 million people in the UK are classified as living in relative poverty – meaning their household income is below 60 per cent of the average.

A government spokesperson has hit back against the report, saying: "The truth is, the percentage of people in relative poverty is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s and the number of households where no one works is the lowest since records began."