Four in 10 families will be unable to afford what people believe is a decent standard of living by the next general election, analysis suggests.
Some 30.6 million people will not be able to afford essentials, such as putting food on the table, by December 2024, according to estimates from the New Economics Foundation (NEF).
This represents 12.5m households and 43% of families across the UK, the think tank said.
And it is a rise of 12 percentage points since the 2019 general election, when 8.9m people in 3.6m families were estimated to not be able to afford a decent standard of living.
The next general election will be held no later than January 2025.
The NEF estimates were reached using the minimum income standard (MIS), calculated by Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy.
This represents the level of income required to meet and sustain an “acceptable standard of living” for various family types at a given point in time, according to the general public.
The 12.5m families estimated to be unable to afford a decent standard of living by December 2024 includes 88% of single parents and 50% of working families with children, the NEF said.
On average families will have a shortfall of £10,000 a year – up from £6,200 a year in December 2019, the analysis suggests.
The NEF is calling for universal credit to be replaced with a national living income, which would set a minimum income floor benchmarked against the MIS for everyone, regardless of whether they are working or out of work.
NEF economist Sam Tims said: “A decade of cuts, freezes, caps and haphazard migration between systems has left the UK with one of the weakest safety nets among developed countries.
“Millions of families were already living in avoidable deprivation and hardship but as we enter the greatest living standards crisis on modern records, the day-to-day experience of low-income families is set to become even more desperate.”
“We need a bold new way of providing income support that will help all people deal with the challenges presented by the fast-changing world we’re living in.
“A national living income would set an income floor that is enough to meet life’s essentials, which no-one can fall below whether they are in or out of work.”
A Government spokesman said: “Universal credit offers a vital safety net to millions of people, enabling them to support themselves and their families while moving towards financial independence through employment.
“Our approach to welfare recognises the value of supporting people into well-paid work, whilst protecting the most vulnerable in society.”
He added that the Government is providing at least £1,200 of direct help this year, including £400 towards energy costs, to those most in need, while the energy price guarantee is keeping bills down.
A further cost-of-living package has been announced for 2023, he added.