Rural families are struggling to make ends meet and typically need to spend 10-20 per cent more than city dwellers for an acceptable standard of living, new research shows.
Higher living costs combined with low pay make country life tough, researchers from Loughborough University found.
The study was produced for the Commission for Rural Communities.
Its executive director Nicola Lloyd 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.
“The high cost of transport and household fuel are likely to be particular problems for rural families with low incomes.
“The CRC’s recent work on fuel poverty and promoting greater energy efficiency offers ways for government and others to help to reduce these costs.
“We would also like to see developments which lessen the need for expensive travel to reach essential services, such as greater access to broadband and mobile technology, and creative solutions to providing employment and services closer to home.”
Report author Dr Noel Smith said urban residents benefited from better public transport and often cheaper, more accessible utilities.
He said: “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.”
The study claimed higher costs meant a single villager needed to earn at least 50 per cent above the minimum wage (£5.93 per hour) to make ends meet.
The research suggested that to afford a minimum standard of living, a single person needed to earn at least £15,600 a year in a rural town, £17,900 a year in a village and £18,600 in a hamlet or the remote countryside.
In comparison, urban residents needed £14,400 to meet the specified minimum.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive Julia Unwin said more needs to be done to help those struggling.
She added: “This important research helps to show how disadvantage is not just an urban phenomenon.
“If society is to agree that people in rural areas should be able to meet a minimum income standard, then we need to start planning for that now, so that improvements in the economy can be reflected in better living standards for people whether they are in cities, towns, villages, or beyond.”