Social inclusion statistics

Data extracted in February 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: February 2018.
Table 1: Population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion, 2010–2015
Source: Eurostat (ilc_peps01)
Figure 1: Number of persons at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion analysed by type of risks, EU-28, 2015
(million)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pees01)
Figure 2: Proportion of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion, 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pees01)
Figure 3: At-risk-of-poverty rate and threshold, 2015
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li01) and (ilc_li02)
Figure 4: Material deprivation rate — proportion of persons who cannot afford to pay for selected items, 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_sip8)
Figure 5: People aged less than 60 living in households with very low work intensity, 2014 and 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_lvhl11)

Social inclusion has long been a key part of the European Union‘s (EU’s) policies. The overriding goal of EU policy in this area is to reduce substantially the number of people at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion, thereby creating a more inclusive society.

However, as multi-dimensional concepts, poverty and social exclusion cannot easily be measured through statistics. As a result, both monetary and non-monetary indicators have been developed, such as the at-risk-of-poverty rate, the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, the severe material deprivation rate and the share of people living in households with very low work intensity. There is a range of other topics that are equally relevant when analysing social inclusion, for example: access to education and training, health, or housing, but which are not addressed in this article.

Main statistical findings

At-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion

The situation in 2015

In 2015, there were 118.8 million people in the EU-28, equivalent to 23.7 % of the entire population, who lived in households facing poverty or social exclusion (see Table 1). Compared with 2014, the number of people at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in 2015 had decreased by 3.1 million, equivalent to a 0.7 percentage point decrease in the share of the total population. As such, the share of the EU-28 population that was at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion fell to a level that had not been recorded since 2010.

The results for the EU-28 — calculated as a weighted average of the national results — conceal considerable variations between EU Member States. In Bulgaria, just over two fifths (41.3 %) of the population was considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in 2015, while in Romania (37.4 %) and Greece (35.7 %) the proportion was more than one third of the population. The latest data show that over a quarter of the population was also considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in nine other EU Member States: Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Portugal and Ireland. Among the non-member countries shown in Table 1, Turkey (51.2 %, 2013 data) and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (41.6 %) reported even higher proportions of their respective populations at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion, while the share in Serbia (41.3 %) was the same as the highest proportion in any of the EU Member States.

The EU Member States with the lowest proportions of their population considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in 2015 were the Czech Republic (14.0 %), Sweden (16.0 %), the Netherlands (16.4 %) and Finland (16.8 %); Iceland (13.0 %), Norway (15.0 %) and Switzerland (16.4 %; 2014 data) also reported relatively low shares of their respective populations as being at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion.

In 2015, there were 17.5 million persons at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in Italy, 16.1 million in Germany, 15.0 million in the United Kingdom, 13.2 million in Spain, 11.0 million in France, 8.8 million in Poland and 7.4 million in Romania; these were the seven highest levels among the EU Member States and together they accounted for nearly three quarters (74.9 %) of the EU-28 total. In each of the remaining Member States, the number of persons at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion was less than 4.0 million.

Developments between 2014 and 2015 show that the proportion of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion fell in a large majority of the EU Member States, most notably in Hungary (-3.6 percentage points) and Romania (-2.9 percentage points). One of the Member States — Slovakia — reported no change in the share of its population that was at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion. There were four Member States which reported an increase in their share of persons at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion between 2014 and 2015. The three largest increases were recorded in Lithuania (2.0 percentage points), Cyprus (1.5 percentage points) and Bulgaria (1.2 percentage points), with a smaller increase in Italy.

In absolute terms, developments between 2014 and 2015 in Italy had the greatest upward impact on the number of persons considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in the EU-28 as a whole, with an increase of 323 thousand. However, this was more than outweighed by larger reductions recorded in five of the EU Member States, as the largest decreases in the number of persons considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion were observed in Romania (-608 thousand), Poland (-576 thousand), France (-492 thousand), Germany (-425 thousand) and Hungary (-362 thousand), while the United Kingdom and Spain also recorded decreases in excess of 200 thousand.

Medium-term developments

Looking further back, at the period 2010–2015 (see Table 1), the proportion of the EU-28 population that was at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rose from 23.7 % in 2010 to 24.7 % in 2012, before falling gradually in 2013 and 2014 and falling at a faster pace (-0.7 percentage points) in 2015 to return to the same proportion as in 2010.

Among the EU Member States, the proportion of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion generally did not vary by more than +/- 2.0 percentage points over the period 2010–2015. Nevertheless, in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Estonia (note there is a break in series) there was a notable increase in the share of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion, the highest increase being recorded in Greece (up 8.0 percentage points), despite a small fall between 2014 and 2015. By contrast, the biggest reductions in the share of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion were recorded in Bulgaria (note there is a break in series) and Latvia, followed by Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

Analysis by type of risk

The headline figure for the overall risk of facing poverty or social exclusion is made up of three specific types of risk: being at-risk-of poverty; facing severe material deprivation; and/or living in a household with very low work intensity (see Figure 1). People are considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion if they face at least one of these risks — although almost one third (32.4 %) of those people at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion within the EU-28 in 2015 faced a combination of two or even all three of these risks.

In 2015, there were 51.0 million people in the EU-28 living in households that faced income poverty (but neither severe material deprivation, nor very low work intensity), 16.0 million persons experiencing severe material deprivation (but neither of the other two risks) and 13.3 million people living in households with very low work intensity (but facing neither of the other two risks). An additional 29.4 million people lived in households facing two out of three of these risks, while a further 9.2 million people lived in households where all three of these risks were present.***

Figure 2 provides a simplified analysis for each EU Member State regarding the proportion of the population facing the three risks identified above, showing:

  • the proportion of people at-risk-of-poverty including those living in households that were exclusively at-risk-of-poverty as well as those at-risk-of-poverty combined with either or both of the other two risks; in the EU-28 this amounted to a total of 86.6 million people in 2015;
  • the analysis then shows the additional proportion of the population experiencing severe material deprivation (either as a single risk or combined with living in a household with very low work intensity); in the EU-28 this amounted to a total of 19.0 million people in 2015;
  • the final category shows the proportion of the population living in households that were exclusively characterised as having a very low work intensity (those that were not at-risk-of-poverty, nor experiencing severe material deprivation); in the EU-28 this amounted to a total of 13.3 million people in 2015.

As such, when summing up the three categories shown in Figure 2, the result corresponds to the overall proportion of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion.

At-risk-of-poverty

In 2015, 17.3 % of the EU-28 population was assessed to be at-risk-of-poverty (see Figure 3) — the monetary dimension of the at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion indicator — with this share ranging from 9.7 % in the Czech Republic to 25.4 % in Romania. Figure 3 also presents an analysis of the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is defined as 60 % of median income in each EU Member State — data are adjusted for price differences between countries. At-risk-of-poverty thresholds for 2015 ranged from PPS 2.6 thousand in Romania to PPS 13.2 thousand in Austria, with the threshold in Luxembourg (PPS 17.6 thousand) above this range. Social protection systems impact upon the share of the population that is considered to be at-risk-of-poverty. More information on income and poverty is available in an article on income distribution.

Material deprivation and severe material deprivation

Alongside income-related measures of poverty, a broader perspective of social inclusion/exclusion can be obtained by studying other measures, for example, those relating to material deprivation; this provides an analysis based on absolute numbers rather than the relative measures used for income poverty. The definition of material deprivation is based on the inability to afford a selection of items that are considered to be necessary or desirable, namely: having arrears on mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, hire purchase instalments or other loan payments; not being able to afford one week’s annual holiday away from home; not being able to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day; not being able to face unexpected financial expenses; not being able to buy a telephone (including mobile phone); not being able to buy a colour television; not being able to buy a washing machine; not being able to buy a car; or not being able to afford heating to keep the house warm.

The material deprivation rate is defined as the proportion of persons who cannot afford at least three out of the nine items specified above, while those who are unable to afford four or more items are considered to be severely materially deprived. Just over one in six (17.0 %) members of the EU-28 population was materially deprived in 2015, with just under half of these (8.1 % of the total population) being considered as experiencing severe material deprivation (see Figure 4). Among the EU Member States, the proportion of people that were materially deprived was highest in Bulgaria (49.1 %), with more than one third (34.2 %) of the Bulgarian population experiencing severe material deprivation. Similarly, in Greece (40.8 %), Romania (39.5 %) and Hungary (34.8 %), which were the Member States with the next highest material deprivation rates, more than half of those considered as materially-deprived experienced severe material deprivation, as was also the case in Latvia, Malta, Lithuania and Italy.

Less than one in 10 people in Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Nordic Member States were materially deprived and in the same EU Member States less than 4.0 % of the entire population was considered to be severely materially deprived (see Figure 4), as was also the case in Switzerland (2014 data), Iceland and Norway.

Work intensity

Being in employment is generally considered to be an effective way to insulate oneself from the risk of poverty. The indicator concerning people living in households with a very low work intensity is defined as those people aged less than 60 who are living in households where adults worked less than 20 % of their total work potential during the year prior to the survey; these people are considered to be more likely to be exposed to social exclusion.

In 2015, 10.6 % of the EU-28’s population aged less than 60 lived in households with very low work intensity (see Figure 5), which represented a reduction of 0.6 percentage points when compared with 2014. In 2015, the proportion of people below the age of 60 living in households with very low work intensity was higher than 14.0 % in Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Greece, while Ireland reported the highest proportion (19.1 %). The EU Member States that reported the lowest proportions of people living in households with very low work intensity in 2015 included Poland (6.9 %), the Czech Republic (6.8 %), Estonia (6.6 %), Sweden (5.8 %) and Luxembourg (5.7 %); Iceland (5.2 %) and Switzerland (4.8 %, 2014 data) recorded even lower proportions.

The fastest expansion in the proportion of persons aged less than 60 living in households with very low work intensity between 2014 and 2015 was reported in Cyprus (an increase of 1.2 percentage points), followed by Finland (0.8 percentage points) and Romania (0.7 percentage points). A majority (21) of the EU Member States reported that the proportion of people aged less than 60 living in households with very low work intensity fell between 2014 and 2015; there were two Member States where this share remained unchanged (the Netherlands and Slovakia). The largest contractions were recorded in Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Latvia, Ireland and Hungary (where the biggest reduction was registered, -3.4 percentage points).

Data sources and availability

EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) are the source of information for statistics relating to income, living conditions and social inclusion, in both monetary and non-monetary terms, for households and individuals. More information on EU-SILC, the calculation of household disposable income, as well as the calculation of household size using the number of ‘equivalent adults’, is provided in an article on income distribution statistics.

Context

At the Laeken European Council in December 2001, European heads of state and government endorsed a first set of common statistical indicators relating to social exclusion and poverty that were subject to a continuing process of refinement by an indicators sub-group that is part of the Social Protection Committee. These indicators are an essential element in the open method of coordination (OMC) to monitor the progress of EU Member States in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. In May 2006, the Social Protection Committee adopted a portfolio of overarching indicators complemented by specific indicators on social inclusion, pensions and health.

The European platform against poverty and social exclusion: a European framework for social and territorial cohesion’ (COM(2010) 758 final) is one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth adopted in 2010. The goals are to:

  • ensure economic, social and territorial cohesion;
  • guarantee respect for the fundamental rights of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion, and enable them to live in dignity and take an active part in society;
  • mobilise support to help people integrate in the communities where they live, get training and help them to find a job and have access to social benefits.

In the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Council adopted in June 2010 a headline target on social inclusion: for the EU as a whole to have at least 20 million fewer people at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion by 2020. EU-SILC is the source for this indicator concerning people at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion which combines three sub-indicators: the at-risk-of-poverty rate, severe material deprivation rate and people living in households with very low work intensity. In order to achieve this target, the Social Protection Committee, among others, analyses the social protection and social inclusion aspects of the EU’s annual growth survey and examines, reviews and assesses country specific recommendations with respect to social protection and social exclusion.

One leading initiative, in respect to the Europe 2020 headline target, has been a Communication of the European Commission relating to a series of ‘national Roma integration strategies’ (COM(2012) 226 final). These seek to highlight the situation of the Roma — considered to be Europe’s largest minority group, of which there are thought to be between 10 and 12 million persons — and to ensure a tangible improvement in relation to their integration and inclusion in society. Proposed measures aim to highlight the fight against poverty and social exclusion, raise employment levels, and reduce school drop-out rates, all three of which are headline targets within the Europe 2020 strategy.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Statistical books

News releases and statistics in focus

Main tables

Income and living conditions (t_ilc)

Database

Income and living conditions (ilc)
People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (ilc_pe)
Income distribution and monetary poverty (ilc_ip)
Living conditions (ilc_lv)
Material deprivation (ilc_md)
EU-SILC ad-hoc modules (ilc_ahm)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

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