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This page was published on 17/12/2008
Published: 17/12/2008


Published: 17 December 2008  
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Research shows poverty levels vary in EU

Are there discrepancies in the rate of poverty between EU Member States? The European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research says there are. Latest data show that the rate of poverty varies between 10% and 23% between States. Countries recording the lowest poverty levels are the Nordic states, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia. The Baltic and Mediterranean regions face the highest levels.

Low employment rates fuel higher poverty levels © Shutterstock
Low employment rates fuel higher poverty levels
© Shutterstock

The survey consisted of data from 24 EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway. Around 75 million people (66%) living in the EU are at risk of poverty, the figures show. Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and the UK are the six countries that reported the highest populations of poor.

Is there disparity in the level of poverty between the young and old? For Cyprus, Denmark, Finland and Norway, the elderly are subjected to higher poverty rates compared to the young, while children in Hungary and Poland are at a greater risk of being poor. The researchers said that age bias in social support is not present in the other EU countries; poverty rates for both the young and old are seemingly above average there.

In terms of regional disparity, the level of poverty ranges across 11 Member States for which data is available. There is a 3.5-4.0-fold difference between the lowest and highest regional poverty in Greece, Spain and Italy, for example.

The researchers explained that the difference between absolute poverty (the number of people below a poverty threshold, independent of time and place) and relative poverty (the state of deprivation defined by social standards) varies considerably in the EU countries.

By calculating two different thresholds with values of EUR 5 per day and EUR 10 per day, and adjusting them with the countries' purchasing power parities, the researchers discovered that the EU Member States sustaining the highest rates of absolute poverty are the Baltic States (i.e. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

They commented that the degree of adjustment was substantial; the price level was only 50% in Slovakia compared to the EU-27 average, and reaches 106% to 119% in France, Germany or Sweden.

The data also showed that the number of children a household has and whether someone lives in a one-adult household — regardless if dependent children are there or not — are two main risks that could affect the household structure.

One-person households affected by poverty have topped the 40% mark in Estonia, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia and Slovenia. Such households either reach or surpass the 30% mark in most of the 26 countries investigated in the study.

The EU's Lisbon Agenda supports greater social cohesion and the creation of new and improved jobs. The researchers remarked that on the one hand, the countries that report the lowest poverty levels are those that have the highest levels of employment, including the Netherlands and Sweden. On the other hand, the EU Members Greece, Spain and Italy have low employment rates, which triggers higher poverty levels.

The research team used the EU-SILC (EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) dataset to conduct their study. EU-SILC is an instrument targeting the timely collection of comparable cross-sectional and longitudinal multidimensional microdata on income, poverty, living conditions and social exclusion.

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