Living conditions in Europe - material deprivation and economic strain


Data extracted in May 2020.

Planned article update: May 2021.

Highlights

In 2018, 7.4 % of the whole population in the EU-27 were unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day, as were one in five people at risk of poverty.

In 2018, 56.6 % of people living in single-adult households with dependent children in the EU-27 were unable to face unexpected financial expenses.

Share of people at risk of poverty who are unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, 2018

Material deprivation, defined as the inability to afford a set of predefined material items that are considered by most people to be desirable or even necessary to experience an adequate quality of life, is a concept that may be used to complement a relative analysis of monetary poverty by providing information on absolute poverty.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles that form Eurostat’s online publication, Living conditions in Europe. Each article helps provide a comprehensive and up-to-date summary of living conditions in Europe, presenting some key results from the European Union’s (EU) statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), which is conducted across EU Member States, as well as the United Kingdom and most of the EFTA and candidate countries.

Full article

Key findings

In 2018, 13.4 % of the EU-27 population could not afford three out of nine standard deprivation items: 7.3 % of the population could not afford three items; 6.1 % could not afford four or more items and therefore faced severe material deprivation. Please refer to the data sources section of this article for a list of the nine items.

A more detailed analysis for the individual items that are used to determine material deprivation reveals, for instance, that in 2018 7.4 % of the whole population in the EU-27 were unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day. Among those at risk of poverty, the share was 20.0 %. Meanwhile, 56.6 % of those living in single-adult households with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses.

Material deprivation

As shown in Figure 1, in general severe material deprivation rates for the EU Member States were considerably lower than at-risk-of-poverty rates in 2018.

Figure 1: Severe material deprivation rate and at-risk-of poverty rate, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li02) and (ilc_sip8)

None of the EU Member States recorded higher levels of absolute poverty (as measured by the severe material deprivation rate) than of relative poverty (as measured by the at-risk-of-poverty rate), although this situation did occur in Turkey (2017 data) and North Macedonia.

Across the whole of the EU-27, the severe material deprivation rate was 6.1 % in 2018 (compared with an at-risk-of-poverty rate of 16.8 %). Severe material deprivation rates ranged from 1.3 % in Luxembourg and 1.6 % in Sweden to 16.7 % in Greece, 16.8 % in Romania and 20.9 % in Bulgaria.

As far as material deprivation is concerned, 7.3 % of the EU-27 population in 2018 was in a position whereby they could not afford precisely three out of a list of nine items (see Figure 2); a further 6.1 % of the population could not afford four or more items. As such, 13.4 % of the EU-27 population experienced material deprivation, while the severe material deprivation rate was 6.1 %.

Figure 2: Material deprivation rate, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_sip8)

Among the EU Member States, less than 5.0 % of the total population in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg and Sweden were categorised as being materially deprived in 2018; this was also the case in Iceland (2017 data), Switzerland and Norway.

On the other hand, more than 20.0 % of the population in seven of the EU Member States was unable to afford three or more items in 2018. The highest shares — all above 30.0 % of the population — were recorded in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece (where a peak of 33.6 % was registered).

Single-adult households with dependent children are most often affected by severe material deprivation

In 2018, 11.6 % of the EU-27 population living in single-adult households with dependent children was considered to be severely materially deprived; this was the highest share among the different household types shown in Table 1. The severe material deprivation rate was also considerably higher than the overall average (6.1 %) among households composed of single adults: the rates were 9.0 % for single females and 9.4 % for single males.

Table 1: Severe material deprivation rate, analysed by household type, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mddd13)

Across the individual EU Member States in 2018:

  • Bulgaria, Lithuania, Croatia, Latvia, Slovenia and Poland recorded considerably higher (3.0 percentage points or more) severe material deprivation rates for their populations living in households without children (when compared with the population living in households with children);
  • in Romania, Hungary and Portugal, persons living in households with two adults with three or more dependent children were most likely to experience severe material deprivation (when compared with the other household types);
  • severe material deprivation rates for people living in households composed of two or more adults with dependent children were:
    • at least twice as high as the EU-27 average of 5.6 % in Hungary, Cyprus and Bulgaria (11.3 %, 11.8 % and 15.5 %);
    • at least three times as high as the EU-27 average in Romania and Greece (17.0 % and 17.3 %);
    • over 30.0 % in North Macedonia and Turkey (31.0 % and 31.2 %; 2017 data for the latter).

Foreign born more likely to experience severe material deprivation

Across the EU-27, people who were foreign-born were more likely to experience severe material deprivation in 2018 than the native-born population, with severe material deprivation rates of 8.8 % and 5.4 % respectively (see Table 2). This pattern was observed across the majority of the EU Member States, although Bulgaria, Malta and Poland were exceptions as they reported a smaller share of the foreign-born population facing severe material deprivation. Severe material deprivation was experienced by 14.9 % of all foreign-born people living in Bulgaria and Italy and 19.3 % living in Lithuania, with this share rising to a peak of 36.1 % for foreign-born people living in Greece.

The gender gap for the severe material deprivation rate was highest among the foreign-born population in Bulgaria and Lithuania: the rate for foreign-born women was 13.7 percentage points higher than for foreign-born men in Bulgaria while in Lithuania the gap was 8.5 percentage points. In both of these Member States the gender gap was much narrower for the native-born population.

Table 2: Severe material deprivation rate for the adult population
(aged 18 years and over), analysed by broad group of country of birth, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mddd16)

Economic strain

7.4 % of the whole population in the EU-27 were unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day, as were one in five people at risk of poverty

In 2018, one fifth (20.0 %) of people across the EU-27 who were at risk of poverty reported being unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day (see Figure 3). This share among the EU Member States ranged from 4.3 % in Ireland up to 41.1 % in Slovakia and 60.3 % in Bulgaria.

Figure 3: Share of the population unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes03)

The share of the EU-27 population unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day was 7.4 %. Among the EU member States, the share of the population in this situation was highest in Bulgaria, at close to one third (31.4 %). By contrast, in Denmark, Sweden and Ireland, less than 2.0 % of the population were unable to afford such a meal with this frequency.

Households with children are less likely to be able to face unexpected financial expenses

The ability to face unexpected financial expenses is a measure of financial security and may be used to identify risks and vulnerabilities that are not necessarily revealed through an analysis of income-based indicators. Note that this indicator provides wealth-based information rather than information relating to income or expenditure; as such, it presents complementary information that may be used to analyse the financial situation of households.

Overall, 33.4 % of the EU-27 population living in households with dependent children was unable to face unexpected financial expenses in 2018, compared with 31.1 % of the population who were living in households without children (see Table 3). Among households with dependent children, high shares were observed for households with two adults and three or more dependent children (37.5 %) and, in particular, households composed of a single adult with dependent children (56.6 %).

Table 3: Share of the population unable to face unexpected financial expenses, analysed by household type, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes04)

Across the EU Member States, at least half of the population living in households with dependent children in 2018 were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in Greece, Latvia and Cyprus (where a share of 53.6 % was recorded). By contrast, less than one quarter of the population living in households with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in Czechia, Luxembourg, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Malta (where a share of 14.5 % was recorded).

A more detailed analysis reveals that people living alone or in households composed of a single adult with dependent children were generally more likely to be unable to face unexpected financial expenses. In 2018, around three fifths (56.6 %) of people living in EU-27 households composed of a single adult with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses. Relatively high shares were also recorded for other households with only one adult: 44.4 % for single females and 36.5 % for single males.

In 2018, around three quarters of the population living in a household composed of a single adult with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in Croatia (74.7 %) and Latvia (75.0 %), while this share just surpassed three quarters in Ireland (where a peak of 76.3 % was recorded).

As noted above, more than two fifths (44.4 %) of all single-female households in the EU-27 reported an inability to face unexpected financial expenses, with this share ranging from 20.9 % in Malta and 26.6 % in Luxembourg, up to more than 70.0 % in Latvia (73.2 %), Croatia (77.8 %) and Bulgaria (81.6 %). In Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy, Croatia and Greece, the share of women living alone who were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in 2018 was higher than for any of the other household types analysed in Table 3.

Households composed of two adults generally recorded lower levels of inability to deal with unexpected financial expenses. This was particularly the case for the subpopulation living in households composed of two adults with at least one member aged 65 years or over, among which approximately a quarter (24.2 %) of individuals in the EU-27 were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in 2018. This pattern — of relatively low shares among households with two adults — was repeated in all of the EU Member States. In 14 Member States the lowest share (among the household types shown in Table 3) was observed for households composed of two adults with at least one aged 65 years or over, while in the remaining 13 Member States the lowest share was observed for households composed of two adults with one dependent child.

Around 1 in 13 people in the EU-27 had great difficulty to make ends meet

Figure 4 presents an alternative measure of financial inclusion/exclusion, defined in relation to the ability of individuals “to make ends meet”; this indicator is based on a subjective measure, namely, a household’s self-perceived feeling about the level of difficulty or ease they experience when paying for everyday expenses (items that are considered usual or necessary).

Figure 4: Distribution of the population living in households by their ability to make ends meet, EU-27, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes09)

In 2018, 7.5 % of the EU-27 population reported great difficulty with making ends meet, around 1 in 13. An additional 42.7 % reported difficulty or some difficulty in making ends meet. As such, around half (50.2 %) of the EU-27 population perceived that they faced at least some difficulty in their ability to make ends meet in 2018. By contrast, approximately 1 in 20 persons (5.5 %) within the EU-27 declared that it was very easy to make ends meet.

Cross-country comparisons (see Figure 5) reveal that, in 2018, more than half of the population of Bulgaria (55.9 %) reported having difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet, while this share reached nearly three quarters of the population in Greece (74.1 %). More than half the populations of North Macedonia (53.5 %), Serbia (58.4 %) and Montenegro (61.9 %; 2017 data) faced difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet.

Figure 5: Share of the population living in households that have difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes09)

By contrast, less than 1 in 10 persons in Denmark (9.3 %), Sweden (8.0 %), Finland (6.1 %), and Germany (5.9 %) reported facing difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet; this was also the case in Norway (6.3 %).

Data sources

The data used in this article are primarily derived from EU-SILC. EU-SILC data are compiled annually and are the main source of statistics that measure income and living conditions in Europe; it is also the main source of information used to link different aspects relating to the quality of life of households and individuals.

The reference population for the information presented in this article is all private households and their current members residing in the territory of an EU Member State (or non-member country) at the time of data collection; persons living in collective households and in institutions are generally excluded from the target population. The data for the EU are population-weighted averages of national data.

Material deprivation indicators

Material deprivation indicators provide a measure related to the (in)ability of individuals to be able to afford a set of nine predefined material items that are considered by most people to be desirable or even necessary to experience an adequate quality of life. These include the inability to:

  • face unexpected financial expenses;
  • afford paying for one week annual holiday away from home;
  • afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day;
  • keep home adequately warm;
  • pay on time a mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase instalments or other loan payments;
  • purchase a range of durable goods such as
    • a washing machine,
    • a colour TV,
    • a telephone, or
    • a personal car.

The material deprivation rate is defined as the proportion of the population that is unable to afford three or more out of this list of nine items.

The severe material deprivation rate is defined as the proportion of the population that is unable to afford four or more of the above-mentioned items.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available, confidential or unreliable value.

Context

The EU promotes smart, sustainable and inclusive growth to improve its competitiveness and productivity, underpinning its social market economy. However, the Europe 2020 strategy cannot be monitored solely through traditional macroeconomic measures: rather, a range of socio-economic aspects are also taken into account.

In recent years, Eurostat has invested considerable resources in developing a set of indicators that are designed to reach Beyond GDP, thereby providing a more inclusive analysis of economic, social and environmental aspects of progress. Indeed, economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) were not designed to be comprehensive measures of prosperity and well-being. With this in mind, a range of indicators have been developed which help to provide information to address global challenges for the 21st century — poverty, the quality of life, health, climate change and resource depletion.

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