People in rural areas need to take home up to 20% more than those in urban areas in order to reach an acceptable living standard, according to a report.
The Commission for Rural Communities said someone in a remote village needed £18,600 a year to make ends meet, against £14,400 for an urban dweller.
It means a villager must earn about 50% above the minimum wage of £5.93 an hour to reach a minimum living standard.
The report cited transport and fuel costs as the main extra cost burdens.
A team from Loughborough University that calculates the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard index carried out the research for the CRC.
This index is based on what items people think households need to be able to afford to achieve a minimum acceptable living standard.
The CRC report found that, with low pay more common in rural areas, many rural workers fall well short of being able to afford their essential needs.
The findings show that the more remote the area, the greater the extra costs.
According to the report, to afford a minimum standard of living a single person needs to earn at least:
£15,600 a year in a rural town;£17,900 a year in a village;£18,600 in a hamlet or the remote countryside.
In comparison, urban dwellers need £14,400, to meet the specified minimum.
When factors such as taxes and tax credits are taken into account, that equates to a difference in take home pay of 10-20%, researchers said.
The report also found:
A car is a significant additional cost for rural households because people said public transport is inadequate;Many rural dwellers face higher energy bills because they are not always connected to mains gas, so must use other fuels;In a hamlet a family of four needs £72.20 more per week than a similar urban family.
The report’s author, Dr Noel Smith, said people in towns and rural areas had broadly similar expectations about what was a minimum living standard.
But, he added, “we were struck by the gap between how much people would need to earn to meet these rural requirements and the level of some of the wages actually available”.
“Workers in the most basic rural jobs can work very hard yet still fall well short of what they need for an acceptable standard of living,” Dr Smith said.
Nicola Lloyd, executive director at the CRC, said: “Although it is now widely recognised that one in five rural households experience poverty, this is the first time we’ve also had reliable data to show the minimum cost of living in the countryside is higher than in the city.
“The rural minimum income standard clearly shows that many ordinary families living in rural areas will struggle to afford the everyday essentials; for some this will make rural life unsustainable.”
She said that there were ways to lessen the need for expensive travel to reach essential services in rural communities.
These included greater access to broadband and mobile technology, “and creative solutions to providing employment and services closer to home,” Ms Lloyd said.
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