Living conditions in Europe - material deprivation and economic strain


Data extracted in November 2017

No planned update

Highlights


In 2016, almost two thirds (65.2 %) of people living in EU households composed of single persons with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses.

More than one in five people in the EU at risk of poverty was unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day.

Inability to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes03)


This article is part of a set of statistical articles that forms Eurostat’s flagship publication, Living conditions in Europe - 2018 edition. 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’s) statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), which is conducted across EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries. This is the second edition of the publication: it was initially released as a paper only publication in 2015 (cat. no. KS-DZ-14-001).

Full article

Policy 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 never 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 or resource depletion.

Key findings

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 lead 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.

In 2016, close to one sixth (15.7 %) of the EU-28 population could not afford three or more out of nine standard deprivation items — 8.2 % of the population could not afford three items, while 7.5 % could not afford four or more items (severe material deprivation).

A more detailed analysis for the individual items that are used to determine material deprivation reveals, for instance, that among those at risk of poverty in the EU-28 in 2016, some 21.3 % were also unable to afford a decent meal every second day, while almost two thirds (65.2 %) of those living in single person households with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses.

Material deprivation

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 lead an adequate quality of life. These include the ability to: meet unexpected expenses; afford a one-week annual holiday away from home; afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day; adequately heat their dwelling; purchase a range of durable goods such as a washing machine, colour television, a telephone, or a car; pay a mortgage, rent, utility bills or other loan payments on time.

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, while 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.

As shown in Figure 1, severe material deprivation rates for the EU Member States were generally lower than at-risk-of-poverty rates in 2016. Across the whole of the EU-28 the severe material deprivation rate was 7.5 % in 2016 (compared with an at-risk-of-poverty rate of 17.3 %). Severe material deprivation rates ranged from 0.8 % in Sweden and 2.0 % in Luxembourg (2015 data) to 22.4 % in Greece, 23.8 % in Romania and a peak of 31.9 % in Bulgaria.

The only EU Member States to record higher levels of absolute poverty (as measured by the severe material deprivation rate) compared with relative poverty (as measured by the at-risk-of-poverty rate) were Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece; a similar pattern was repeated in Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (both 2015 data).

Figure 1: Severe material deprivation rate and at-risk-of poverty rate, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li02) and (ilc_sip8)

As far as material deprivation is concerned, some 8.2 % of the EU-28 population was in a position whereby they could not afford three out of the nine material items in 2016 (see Figure 2); while a further 7.5 % of the population could not afford four or more items. As such, almost one sixth (15.7 %) of the EU-28 population experienced material deprivation, while the severe material deprivation rate was 7.5 %.

Among the EU Member States, less than 5.0 % of the total population in Sweden and Luxembourg (2015 data) was categorised as being materially deprived in 2016; this was also the case in Norway.

On the other hand, upwards of one tenth of the population in 12 of the EU Member States was unable to afford three items in 2016 (data for Ireland and Italy refer to 2015); the highest shares were recorded in Greece, Romania and Croatia (where a peak of 17.6 % was registered). When combined with those persons unable to afford four or more items, the highest material deprivation rates were recorded in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria (where a peak of 46.9 % was registered).

Figure 2: Material deprivation rates, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_sip8)

Single-parent households are most often affected by severe material deprivation

In 2016, some 15.7 % of the EU-28 population living in single-parent households was considered to be severely materially deprived; this was the highest share among any of the different household types that are depicted in Table 1. There were two other types of household where the severe material deprivation rate was in double-digits, namely: households composed of single men (10.9 %) or single women (10.0 %), while the severe material deprivation rate was also higher than the EU-28 average (7.5 %) for households composed of two adults with three or more children (9.7 %).

Across the individual EU Member States in 2016:

  • Germany, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland each recorded higher severe material deprivation rates for their populations living in households without children (when compared to the population living in households with children);
  • Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal and Romania each reported that persons living in households with two adults with three or more dependent children were most affected by severe material deprivation (when compared with the other household types depicted in Table 1);
  • 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-28 average (7.5 %) in Cyprus and Hungary, were more than three times as high as the EU-28 average in Romania and Greece, and were just over four times as high as the EU-28 average in Bulgaria (30.6 %).
Table 1: Severe material deprivation rate by household type, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mddd13)

Severe material deprivation affects more foreign citizens

Foreign (non-national) citizens were generally more vulnerable to severe material deprivation than the national population (see Table 2). Across the whole of the EU-28, some 9.7 % of foreign citizens were affected by severe material deprivation in 2016 compared with 7.0 % of national citizens. This pattern held across the majority of the EU Member States, although the United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria were exceptions as they reported fewer foreign citizens facing severe material deprivation. Severe material deprivation touched more than one fifth of all foreign citizens living in Italy (2015 data) and Bulgaria, with this share rising to a peak of 47.9 % for those foreign citizens who were living in Greece.

Table 2: Severe material deprivation rate for the adult population by broad group of citizenship and sex, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mddd16)

Economic strain

More than one in five people in the EU-28 at risk of poverty was unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day

In 2016, some 8.3 % of the EU-28 population was unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day (see Figure 3). The share of the population facing difficulties with respect to this economic strain was highest in Bulgaria, where more than one third (34.6 %) of the population was unable to afford such a meal every second day. By contrast, in Ireland (2015 data), the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, fewer than 3.0 % of the population faced such difficulties.

Looking in more detail, more than one fifth (21.3 %) of the subpopulation of people across the EU-28 who were at risk of poverty reported being unable to afford such a meal every second day. This share ranged among the EU Member States from 3.4 % of those at risk of poverty in Sweden up to 63.9 % of those who at risk of poverty in Bulgaria. In a similar vein, more than half (58.5 %) of the population at risk of poverty in Greece was also unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day.

Figure 3: Inability to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes03)

Ability to face unexpected financial expenses

The ability to cope with 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 pertaining to income or expenditure; as such, it presents complementary information that may be used to analyse the financial situation of households.

Around two fifths (39.3 %) of the EU-28 population living in households with dependent children was unable to face unexpected financial expenses in 2016, compared with just over one third (33.6 %) of the population who were living in households without children (see Table 3).

Across the EU Member States in 2016, more than half of the population living in households with dependent children was unable to face unexpected financial expenses in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Greece, Ireland (2015 data), Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Cyprus and Latvia (where a peak of 58.7 % was recorded). At the other end of the range, less than one quarter of the population living in households with dependent children was unable to face unexpected financial expenses in Luxembourg (2015 data), Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands (where a low of 22.0 % was recorded).

A more detailed analysis reveals that those people living alone or in single-parent households often reported considerable difficulties in facing unexpected financial expenses. In 2016, almost two thirds (65.2 %) of people living in EU-28 households composed of single persons with dependent children were unable to face unexpected financial expenses. Relatively high shares were also recorded for households composed of single women (46.5 %) and single men (39.7 %).

In 2016, more than three quarters of the population living in single-parent households were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in Latvia, Bulgaria and Croatia, while this share exceeded four fifths in the United Kingdom, Hungary and Ireland (where a peak of 87.6 % was recorded; 2015 data).

As noted above, almost half (46.5 %) of all single-female households in the EU-28 reported an inability to face unexpected financial expenses, with this share ranging from a low of 26.8 % in Luxembourg (2015 data) up to a high of 86.6 % in Bulgaria (2016 data). In Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria, the share of women living alone who faced difficulties in coping with unexpected financial expenses in 2016 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 (25.7 %) of individuals in the EU-28 were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in 2016. This pattern was repeated in a majority of the EU Member States, although there were exceptions in several eastern, southern and Baltic Member States — Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. In each of these, the lowest shares of people facing difficulties in meeting unexpected financial expenses were recorded for households composed of two adults with one or two dependent children.

Table 3: Inability to face unexpected financial expenses by household type, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes04)

Just less than one tenth of the EU-28 population had great difficulty with making 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 they experience when paying for everyday expenses (items that are considered usual or necessary).

Just less than one tenth (9.1 %) of the EU-28 population reported great difficulty with making ends meet in 2016, while an additional 43.3 % reported difficulty or some difficulty in making ends meet; as such, more than half (52.4 %) of the EU-28 population perceived that they faced at least some difficulty in their ability to make ends meet in 2016. By contrast, approximately 1 in 20 persons (5.4 %) within the EU-28 population declared that it was very easy to make ends meet.

Figure 4: Share of population living in households by their ability to make ends meet, EU-28, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes09)

Cross-country comparisons (see Figure 5) reveal that in 2016 more than half of the population in Croatia (51.4 %) and Cyprus (59.8 %) reported having difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet, while this share rose to more than three fifths of the population in Bulgaria (61.7 %) and to more than three quarters of the population in Greece (76.8 %); more than half the populations of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (55.5 %; 2015 data) and Serbia (63.9 %) also faced difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet.

On the other hand, less than 1 in 10 persons in Sweden (7.6 %), Germany (6.9 %) and Finland (also 6.9 %) reported facing difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet; this was also the case in Norway (5.4 %).

Figure 5: Share of population living in households that have difficulty or great difficulty in making ends meet, 2016
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes09)

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Data sources

The data used in this section are primarily derived from data from EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). EU-SILC is carried out annually and is the main survey that measures income and living conditions in Europe, and is the main source of information used to link different aspects relating to the quality of life at the household and individual level.

The reference population is all private households and their current members residing in the territory of an EU Member State at the time of data collection; persons living in collective households and in institutions are generally excluded from the target population. The EU-28 aggregate is a population-weighted average of individual national figures.

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