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In work. But still in debt.

Charting the rise of clients in full time work

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"In work. But still in debt." is the latest edition in our client insights report series.

The report focuses on the rise in clients in full-time employment seeking debt advice.

About the report

Many people across the UK in full-time employment still face problem debt and their employment hasn’t been able to shield them from this. The report highlights the potential inadequacy of existing safety nets, the prevalence of in-work debt problems, and gender-specific experiences. YouGov polling commissioned by StepChange reveals that in the UK, among those that are experiencing problem debt (9% and around 2.8 million people), around 52% are in full-time employment.

Key findings

1) Increase in full-time employed clients seeking debt advice

StepChange data from 2021 showed that 38% of those seeking debt advice were full-time employed, however, recent data (December) for 2023 reveals a six percentage points increase to 44%. Compared to 2021, in 2023 we saw slightly more full-time employed clients who are women, aged 35-49, with children, and homeowners seeking debt advice.

44% of debt advice clients are in full-time employment

2) Cost of living increases pose a challenge

A ‘cost of living increase’ (26%) emerges as the primary reason for debt among clients in full-time employment. Rising costs, particularly housing and utilities, pose significant challenges for those in full-time employment, as their income does not stretch as far as it used to and there’s a need to bridge this financial gap.

3) The gender pay gap persists even for women in full-time employment

Many clients in full-time employment had relatively low incomes when compared to UK adults. When looking at the average monthly income among full-time employed clients, gender disparities emerge; women’s average monthly income amount is £133 lower than men. This insight is in line with findings in our Bearing the burden report, and shows that the gender pay gap persists even for women in full-time employment.

Women's average income is £133 lower than men

What’s next?

Traditionally, work has long been associated with financial stability. However, this report shows a growing number of people in full-time employment seeking debt advice. While debt problems among those in full-time employment are not new, our analysis indicates an increasing risk of problem debt among this group. This should prompt policy makers and others, like employers, to consider how well those in full-time employment are being supported to meet living costs and build financial resilience.

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Want more information?

Email us to discuss our 'In work. But still in debt' report at policy@stepchange.org