LONDON — More than a third of workers in the United Kingdom are only one paycheck away from serious hardship, with one in four not having enough money to spare after buying necessities. The new survey of 2,000 employees amid the UK’s cost-of-living crisis finds 34 percent say they’re living paycheck to paycheck. If they were to lose their job today, 56 percent couldn’t afford basic utilities, 47 percent couldn’t afford groceries, and 41 percent fear they’d go into debt.
Another 43 percent say they’d have to sign up for universal credit, while 29 percent would cancel their direct debits and 24 percent believe they’d need to shop at food banks. The findings also revealed how workers are restricting their phone use during this economic downturn. One in 10 households with incomes under $31,000 no longer call or text their loved ones, while 10 percent are limiting their data usage each month. A further 70 percent of this group admit they don’t know what they’d do if they couldn’t access the internet, with 38 percent relying on their smartphones to get online.
Of all those polled, many rely on access to mobile data to carry out important life tasks, including paying bills (35%), managing direct debits (31%), and booking medical appointments (21%).
The research was commissioned by Virgin Media O2, which has announced the opening of the United Kingdom’s 1,000th Databank Hub in partnership with digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, giving free mobile data, texts, and calls to those in need.
“The research shows that many are worried about experiencing serious financial hardship, and even becoming homeless,” says Nicola Green of Virgin Media O2 in a statement.
4 in 10 living in debt denial
The OnePoll survey also found four in 10 admit they previously had an “it won’t happen to me” attitude when it comes to serious financial hardship, but it now feels like it could become a reality. More than half (53%) fear having to ask for help with money, but one in 10 believe they’d need to visit a databank if they lost their job, to get a SIM card and vouchers for free mobile date, texts, and calls.
“With two million households still struggling to afford internet access in the UK today, and 10 million adults lacking the most basic digital skills, collectively we all need to do more to help the most vulnerable people in our society connect with digital,” adds Helen Milner OBE, group chief executive, Good Things Foundation, and founder of the National Databank.
South West News Service writer Francesca Tuckey contributed to this report.