Ageing Europe - statistics on pensions, income and expenditure


Data extracted in July 2020.

Planned article update: September 2022.

Highlights

In 2017, old-age pensions accounted for 75 % of all pension benefits in the EU-27, while survivors’ pensions accounted for 13 % and disability pensions for 6 %.

The ratio of old-age benefits relative to GDP rose in the EU-27 from 9.7 % in 2008 to 11.0 % in 2013 and 2014, before decreasing slightly to 10.8 % in 2017.

In 2018, annual median net income for older men aged 65 years or more in the EU-27 was 11 % higher than that for women (of the same age).

Pension benefits, 2017
(%, relative to GDP)
Source: Eurostat (spr_exp_pens)

Ageing Europe — looking at the lives of older people in the EU is a Eurostat publication providing a broad range of statistics that describe the everyday lives of the European Union’s (EU) older generations.

Demographic developments in the EU have stimulated considerable levels of debate around the economic implications of an ageing population. Two of the principal concerns of policymakers within this area concern:

  • expenditure on pensions — which is expected to rise in both absolute terms and as a share of gross domestic product (GDP);
  • pension adequacy — in other words, how current and future pensions may help prevent old-age poverty and maintain the income of older people for the duration of their retirement.
Full article

Pensions

The transition for individuals from work to retirement leads to a change in their source of livelihood, moving from paid income to a pension/retirement fund. Some older people slowly transition from one state to the other, by seeking to reduce their working hours gradually: in some cases they may remain in the workforce for longer than they really wish to because they fear not having enough money if they live to be very old. Other older people are unable or unwilling to carry on working (at least on a full-time basis), for example, because of an illness/disability or due to the provision of care to somebody else. Chapter 4 provides more information on the transition from work into retirement. However, it is common for older people to move directly from full-time work into retirement. Once retired, pensions provide older people with an income and thereby play a part in protecting them from poverty; they are the principal source of income for close to one quarter of the population in the EU-27.

It is projected that the number of pension beneficiaries will increase as the number of pension contributors declines

Population ageing has already resulted in a gradual increase in the number and share of pensioners relative to the total population and this pattern is set to continue in the coming decades. In 2017, almost one quarter (23.5 %) of the total EU-27 population was a beneficiary of an old-age and/or survivors’ pension (a pension paid on death of a spouse to the surviving partner, as long as they remain single).

There were 11 EU Member States where at least one quarter of the total population was a beneficiary of a pension in 2017, with a peak of 30.0 % in Slovenia. At the other end of the range, pension beneficiaries accounted for less than one fifth of the total population in five Member States, with the lowest shares in Ireland (16.1 %), Cyprus and Malta (both 17.6 %).

Between 2008 and 2017, the share of pension beneficiaries in the total population rose across the vast majority of EU Member States; the only exceptions were Hungary and Italy. A falling share of pension beneficiaries could reflect a relatively high level of overall population growth, or might result from a change in pensions’ criteria leading to a lower number of beneficiaries.

The second half of Figure 1 shows that in 2017 the number of pension beneficiaries (for old-age and/or survivors’ pensions) was higher than the total number of people aged 65 years or more in all but three of the EU Member States; the exceptions were Belgium, Spain and Malta. This apparent anomaly is because recipients may start to receive a pension before the age of 65, for example, because they took early retirement, or alternatively because survivors’ pensions may be paid to descendants and/or spouses aged less than 65 years. Between 2008 and 2017, the ratio of pension beneficiaries receiving an old-age and/or survivors’ pension relative to the total number of people aged 65 years or more fell in all but five of the EU Member States; the exceptions were Ireland, Lithuania, Cyprus, Croatia and Luxembourg (note there is a break in series). This general decline in the coverage of pensions may in part reflect the introduction of pension reforms.

Figure 1: Beneficiaries of an old-age and/or survivors pension, 2008 and 2017
(%)
Source: Eurostat (spr_pns_ben), (demo_pjan) and (demo_pjanbroad)

Older women are more frequently reliant on income provided by their partner

Family roles and the traditional division of labour between men and women during their working lives is often reflected in pension entitlements. While most men spend the vast majority of their entire working lives in full-time employment, a larger share of women stay at home, take a career break, work on a part-time (or reduced working hours) basis in order to bring-up children or care for other family members. Women’s pensions therefore tend to be lower than men’s, such that older women may be more reliant than older men on the income provided by their partner.

Figure 2 provides information on pension beneficiaries by sex. In 2017, more than one quarter (25.7 %) of all women in the EU-27 were beneficiaries of an old-age and/or survivors’ pension; the corresponding share for men was lower, standing at just over one fifth (21.1 %). These differences can generally be explained by the higher life expectancy of women compared with men and the differences are particularly apparent for survivors’ pensions (as women tend to outlive their male partners). In Spain, Malta and Luxembourg, a higher proportion of the male (compared with female) population were pension beneficiaries, which might reflect a relatively large proportion of women staying at home throughout their lives and therefore only being in a position to claim a (survivors’) pension once their partner was deceased.

Figure 2: Beneficiaries of an old-age and/or survivors pension as a share of the total population, by sex, 2017
(%)
Source: Eurostat (spr_pns_ben) and (demo_pjan)

While the share of pension beneficiaries in the total population of each EU Member State did not vary by more than a factor of two, in monetary terms there was a much more diverse picture. Indeed, the average level of pension benefits varies considerably across the EU, reflecting among other factors, macroeconomic conditions, public finances and overall standards of living.

In 2017, the total value of all pension benefits in the EU-27 was EUR 1.67 trillion. Old-age pensions accounted for three quarters (75.0 %) of all pension benefits, while survivors’ pensions accounted for just over one eighth (12.7 %) and disability pensions followed with a 6.2 % share; the remaining types of pension — for example, anticipated old-age pensions or early retirement pensions — accounted for relatively small shares of total pension benefits.

Between 2008 and 2017, the value of old-age pension benefits in the EU-27 rose overall by 36.5 % (note that these figures are in current price terms and hence do not take account of price changes during the period under consideration). Old-age pension benefits grew at a faster pace than any of the other types of pension shown in Figure 3, while the overall value of survivors’ pensions (up 13.1 %) and disability pensions (up 13.0 %) also rose across the EU-27 during this period.

Figure 3: Pension benefits, EU-27, 2008-2017
(billion EUR)
Source: Eurostat (spr_exp_pens)

Old-age pension benefits accounted for a 10.8 % share of GDP Figure 4 presents two types of ratios for measuring the relative importance of selected social benefits: each benefit as a share of all social protection benefits and also relative to GDP. The share of EU-27 old-age benefits relative to GDP rose from 9.7 % in 2008 to 11.0 % in 2013 and 2014, before contracting by a small margin to 10.8 % in 2017. There was a modest increase in the share of disability benefits relative to GDP, up from 1.9 % of GDP in 2008 to 2.1 % in 2017, while the ratio of survivors’ benefits relative to GDP was 1.7 % in 2008 and in 2017, despite having been slightly higher in most of the intervening years.

Figure 4: Old-age, disability and survivors benefits, EU-27, 2008-2017
(%)
Source: Eurostat (spr_exp_sum)

In 2017, the total value of EU-27 old-age pension benefits relative to GDP was 9.6 % (see Figure 5). There were six EU Member States where this indicator was in double-digits, with the highest ratios in Greece (13.0 %), France (12.2 %) and Italy (11.1 %). By contrast, the ratio of old-age pension benefits relative to GDP was less than 5.0 % in Estonia and Ireland (where the lowest ratio was recorded, at 4.5 %). As such, old-age pension benefits in Greece were 2.9 times as high as in Ireland (when measured relative to GDP). These differences may be due, at least in part, to policy preferences, institutional arrangements and overall levels of economic activity.

Figure 5: Pensions benefits, 2017
(%, relative to GDP)
Source: Eurostat (spr_exp_pens)

Pension reforms as viewed by European citizens

Pension reforms sit near the top of the agenda for many EU governments, with policymakers seeking to ensure adequate pensions. Across the EU there have been a wide range of policy initiatives, which can often be grouped under two main headings: on the one hand, safeguarding the sustainability of pension systems and more generally public finances; on the other, labour market reforms that are designed to keep older people at work, thereby reducing the number of early exits from the workforce.

When asked during the fourth quarter of 2016 [1] about their concern over not having sufficient income in old-age, adult respondents across the EU-27 had an average score of 5.9 — on a scale from 1 (not worried) to 10 (extremely worried). People in Greece expressed the highest level of concern (8.0), followed by people in Latvia and Portugal (both 7.0). At the other end of the range, the lowest levels of concern were recorded in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark (see Figure 6).

Older people (aged 65 years or more) were generally less concerned than their fellow adult citizens about having sufficient income in old-age. This was true across the whole of the EU-27 (an average score of 5.0 compared with 5.9 for the whole adult population) as well as all but one of the EU Member States; the exception was Bulgaria. The biggest gaps in concern over a lack of income — between the whole adult population and older people — were recorded in Luxembourg and Germany.

Figure 6: Concern over not having sufficient income in old-age, by age class, fourth quarter 2016
(average, scale of 1-10)
Source: Eurostat (demo_pjan) and (demo_pjangroup) and Eurofound, European quality of life survey, 2016

A survey conducted in 2018 [2] reveals that more than three quarters (77 %) of all adults (aged 15 years or more) in the euro area (EA-19) agreed with the premise that governments needed to save more today in order to prepare their public finances for population ageing (see Figure 7). A majority of respondents was in agreement in each of the euro area countries, with the highest share recorded in Ireland (91 %) and the lowest in Greece (67 %).

Figure 7: Citizens' views concerning the ability of governments to pay for pensions, October 2018
(%)
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 473 — The euro area

When asked in a similar survey one year later about their views on whether or not the retirement age should be increased to ensure the sustainability of pension systems, three quarters (75 %) of all adults (aged 15 years or more) in the euro area agreed. In Ireland, 90 % of the surveyed population agreed that it would be necessary to increase the retirement age, while there were six euro area members where fewer than three quarters of all respondents agreed that such a change would be necessary. In 13 of the euro area Member States, the share of women who thought that the retirement age should be increased to ensure the sustainability of pension systems was greater than the share among men (see Figure 8); the largest gender gaps (16, 11 and 10 percentage points) were observed in Estonia, Italy and Germany. By contrast, slightly higher shares for men were observed in Finland, Slovenia and Spain, while in Malta and Cyprus the shares for men were 4 and 6 percentage points higher than for women. In Slovakia, the shares were the same for men and women.

Figure 8: Citizens' views concerning the need to increase the retirement age, October 2019
(%)
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 481 — The euro area

Incomes for older people

Financial insecurity in older age may lead to poverty and other forms of social exclusion. Pension inadequacy is one of the principal reasons why the standard of living of older people may fall below what might be considered to be a decent level. A lack of financial resources may combine with other factors that are typical in older age — for example, illness, disability or frailty — to lower the quality of life enjoyed by older people.

Median equivalised net income for older people rose at a faster than average pace

In 2018, annual median equivalised net income across the EU-27 was EUR 16 839. Equivalised net income is measured after taxes and other deductions, in other words, this indicator presents the average income that an individual has available within one year for spending or saving. While recognising that substantial differences exist across countries and groups within society, it is worth remembering that some older people have savings and/or other assets and they might make use of these to supplement their income.

Towards the end of their working lives, people aged 55-64 years in the EU-27 could expect to have a higher than average level of annual income (EUR 18 465), while income levels for older people (aged 65 years or more) were below average (EUR 15 771). Figure 9 traces the development of annual median equivalised net income for these different age groups during the period 2010 to 2018. Since the global financial and economic crisis, the income of older people in the EU-27 rose at a faster than average pace, with the income gap between older people and the total population closing somewhat during the period up to 2014. Thereafter the gap widened again such that by 2018, the median net income of people aged 65 years or more was 93.7 % of the median for the whole population, which was approximately the same share as it had been in 2010 (93.5 %).

Figure 9: Median equivalised net income, by age class, EU-27, 2010-2018
Source: Eurostat (ilc_di03)

Older people living in Luxembourg had by far the highest levels of income

Figure 10 shows income levels that are based on information in purchasing power standards (PPS), a currency unit which adjusts for differences in price levels between countries. In 2018, Luxembourg recorded by far the highest level of annual median equivalised net income among older people (aged 65 years or more), at 35 101 PPS. Austria had the second highest level of income for older people (22 394 PPS), followed by France (20 809 PPS). A majority of the EU Member States (21 out of 28) reported median income levels for older people that were within the range of 8 200-19 200 PPS. There were four Member States where the median level of income was below this range, namely Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria, with the last of these recording the lowest level of average income for older people (5 749 PPS). As such, even after taking price differences into account, older people living in Luxembourg had incomes that were 6.1 times as high as those of older people living in Romania.

Older women tend to have less income at their disposal than older men

In 2018, annual median equivalised net income for men aged 55-64 years in the EU-27 was 3.6 % higher than for women of the same age. The gender gap was more pronounced for older people aged 65 years or more, where the median level of income among men was 11.4 % higher than that for women.

There were six EU Member States where the median equivalised net income of women aged 55-64 years was higher than that recorded for men of the same age in 2018: Hungary, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Luxembourg. A similar comparison between the sexes for older people (aged 65 years or more) reveals that older men had consistently higher levels of income than older women. This gender gap was most apparent in Lithuania and Bulgaria, where the median income among older men was more than 20.0 % above the level of income received by older women.

Figure 10: Median equivalised net income, by sex and age class, 2018
(PPS)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_di03)

Pensions were valued at close to three fifths of the income received by people at the end of their working lives

The aggregate replacement ratio is a measure that may be used to assess how efficient pension systems are in terms of allowing older people to maintain their standard of living after they have moved into retirement; it compares the median pension income of older people aged 65-74 years relative to median earnings from work among people aged 50-59 years. The ratio is therefore designed to capture income differences between people towards the end of their working lives and older people who are in the early years of retirement.

The EU-27 aggregate replacement ratio was 0.58 in 2018, indicating that pensions accounted for close to three fifths of the income received by people towards the end of their working lives. Nevertheless, there were considerable differences across the EU Member States: the highest ratio was recorded in Luxembourg (0.87), while pensions in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal represented at least two thirds of the median earnings among people towards the end of their working lives. There were 10 Member States where the aggregate replacement ratio was less than 0.50: among these the lowest ratio was recorded in Ireland (0.35).

Between 2010 and 2018, the aggregate replacement ratio in the EU-27 rose from 0.53 to 0.58 (see Figure 11); note that this change could reflect an increase in pensions and/or a fall in the median level of earnings among people aged 50-59 years. The ratio also increased in a majority of the EU Member States (15 out of 27), with particularly large increases in Spain, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg (note that there is a break in series). The aggregate replacement ratio fell most notably in Ireland, Romania, Estonia (note that there is a break in series) and Lithuania.

Figure 11: Aggregate replacement ratio, 2010 and 2018
(ratio)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pnp3)

Older people experienced a lower level of income inequality

Pensions, social security payments and taxes are some of the main tools that can be used by policymakers to reduce income inequalities among older people. In 2018, almost one quarter (21.9 %) of the EU-27 working-age population (defined here as those aged 18-64 years) had an income that was at least 50 % higher than the median equivalised net income. Based on this measure, there was less income inequality among older people (aged 65 years or more), as 15.7 % of this subpopulation had an income that was at least 50 % higher than the median.

This pattern — lower income inequality for older people (compared with the working-age population) — was repeated in the vast majority of EU Member States; in 2018, the only exceptions were Luxembourg (where the shares were the same for both age groups) and France (see Figure 12).

Figure 12: People with an income ≥150 % of median equivalised net income, by age class, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_di20)

The risk of poverty among older people

A person at risk of poverty is someone who (despite social transfers) has a level of income less than 60 % of the median income for the whole population. In 2018, there were 73.8 million people at risk of poverty in the EU-27, some 13.3 million of these were older people (aged 65 years or more).

Older women were more often at risk of poverty

During their working lives, it is more common for women to take career breaks, to work part-time and in lower paid jobs, or to permanently withdraw from the labour market. As a result, their pension entitlements are often much lower; this means that women, in particular, face an increased risk of poverty upon reaching retirement and this risk increases with older age (possibly reflecting the higher share of older women who are widowed).

In 2018, almost one fifth (19.1 %) of women aged 75 years or more in the EU-27 were at risk of poverty; this was 6.3 percentage points higher than the corresponding rate for men of the same age (see Figure 13). A gender gap was also apparent for people aged 65-74 years, as the risk of poverty among women of this age (15.9 %) was 2.8 percentage points higher than that for men of the same age.

Recent years have seen a gradual increase in the prevalence of in-work poverty across the EU. This pattern was reflected in an increase in the risk of poverty between 2010 and 2018 both for men and for women aged 55-64 years. It is interesting to note that there was little difference in the risk of poverty between the sexes for this age group.

Figure 13: At-risk-of-poverty rate among people aged ≥55 years, by sex and age class, EU-27, 2010-2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li02)

As noted above, policymakers have a range of tools that may be used to lower the risk of poverty among people nearing retirement. Figure 14 shows the impact that social transfers have on reducing the risk of poverty; note that pensions are excluded from these figures (that focus on other forms of social transfers).

In 2018, social transfers in the EU-27 reduced the risk of poverty among people aged 55-64 years by 8.3 percentage points, while the corresponding reduction for older people (aged 65 years or more) was 2.7 percentage points. In all but one of the EU Member States (Malta being the exception), social transfers led to a greater reduction in the risk of poverty among people aged 55-64 years than among older people aged 65 years or more. This is perhaps unsurprising given that pensions are excluded from the findings. The impact of social transfers on reducing the risk of poverty among older people was in double-digits in Malta (where the risk of poverty among older people was reduced by 11.2 percentage points). At the other end of the range, their impact was at most 1.5 percentage points in Lithuania, Luxembourg, Italy and Germany.

Figure 14: Reduction in the at-risk-of-poverty rate as a result of social transfers, by age class, 2018
(percentage points)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li02) and (ilc_li10)

Social transfers in the EU-27 reduced the risk of poverty among older men (aged 65 years or more) by 2.4 percentage points, while the corresponding reduction for older women was 3.0 percentage points. In 20 of the EU Member States, social transfers led to a greater reduction in the risk of poverty among older women aged 65 years or more than among older men of the same age, with the largest gender differences in Sweden and the Netherlands. In Ireland, the impact of social transfers on the risk of poverty was the same for men and women aged 65 years or more. In the remaining six Member States, the impact was greater for men than for women, most notably in Denmark and Slovenia.

Figure 15: Change in the at-risk-of-poverty rate for people aged ≥65 years as a result of social transfers, by sex, 2018
(percentage points)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li02) and (ilc_li10)

Almost 10 % of older people in work were at risk of poverty

A growing share of older people are remaining in the labour force, even after they have reached the age at which they are eligible for pensions. This could reflect high levels of job satisfaction, or alternatively, it might indicate the perceived inadequacy of pension entitlements and other social transfers which could result in a larger share of older people deciding that they need to remain within the labour force.

Figure 16 shows that there was little difference in the EU-27 as a whole concerning the risk of in-work poverty across the generations. In 2018, this risk touched almost 1 in 10 (9.3 %) older persons (aged 65 years or more) who remained in work, which was the same rate as for all working adults aged 18 years or more. The rate was slightly lower (8.5 %) for people aged 55-64 years who were in work.

Across the EU Member States, the risk of in-work poverty was particularly high for older people in Romania, as 45.4 % of all older people still in-work were at risk of poverty in 2018; this may be linked to a high share of the workforce being composed of subsistence farmers. The risk of in-work poverty among older people was considerably lower in the remaining Member States, with the next highest rates being 16.3 % in Austria, 16.0 % in Luxembourg and 15.7 % in Greece. By contrast, there were 11 EU Member States where the risk of in-work poverty among older people was lower than 5.0 %.

In Austria, the risk of in-work poverty among older people (aged 65 years or more) was 2.9 times as high as the rate for people aged 55-64 years; a similar pattern was apparent in Romania, where the risk of in-work poverty was 2.5 times as high for older people. By contrast, there were 15 EU Member States where the risk of in-work poverty was lower for older people than it was for people aged 55-64 years.

Figure 16: In-work at-risk-of-poverty rate, by age class, 2018
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_iw01)

Wealth and debt of older people

Life-cycle models show that most people can expect their asset income to accumulate over their working lives. Once they reach retirement, people generally start to draw down on their savings or cash in private pension plans or other forms of investment.

The net wealth of households generally grows during the course of working lives

Figure 17 shows the median net wealth of households by age of reference person. In 2017, households in the euro area with a reference person aged 55-64 years had a net wealth that was 67.5 % higher than the median for all households; a similar average (67.6 %) was recorded for households where the reference person was aged 65-74 years. Although the net wealth of households where the reference person was aged 75 years or more declined (compared with other older people), it remained above the median for all households.

In most of the euro area Member States shown in Figure 17, the highest levels of net wealth were recorded for households where the reference person was aged either 55-64 years or 65-74 years. With the exception of Austria, in the western and Nordic Member States that are shown the net wealth of households with a reference person aged 55 years or more was above average (for all three age groups covering people aged 55 years or more); this pattern may be linked, at least in part, to a dramatic increase in property prices that benefitted (some) older people while making it difficult for younger generations to enter the housing ownership market.

Figure 17: Median net wealth of households, by age class, 2017
(households based on age of reference person, relative to median for all households = 100)
Source: European Central Bank, Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN)

Older people were less likely to be holding debt

In 2017, close to half (41.9 %) of all households in the euro area were holding debt; debt instruments include mortgages, loans, overdrafts and credit card debt. As may be expected, older people generally had lower levels of debt than younger generations: while 9.1 % of households in the euro area with a reference person aged 75 years or more were holding debt, this share was considerably higher (61.2 %) for households where the reference person was aged 35-44 years. Figure 18 shows that, in the euro area, the proportion of households holding debt was lower (than the average for all households) in households with reference persons in all three age groups aged 55 years or more; this was also the case in a majority of the euro area Member States. The likelihood of holding debt fell as a function of age: in each of the Member States shown, the lowest proportion of households holding debt was recorded for households where the reference person was aged 75 years or more.

Figure 18: Households holding debt, by age class, 2017
(% of households based on age of reference person)
Source: European Central Bank, Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN)

Expenditure of older people

The value of pensions can be eroded over time if the price of goods and services increases at a faster rate than pensions. By index-linking pensions, some EU Member States directly link their pensions to inflation, the cost of living or wage growth in an attempt to maintain the quality of life enjoyed by older people.

Measuring expenditure patterns

Household budget surveys (HBS) focus on collecting information about household expenditure on goods and services; expenditure made is recorded at the price actually paid (including indirect taxes, such as VAT). Changes in the structure of household consumption expenditure will, to some degree, reflect the income elasticity of demand. As consumers get older, healthcare services may become more of a necessity (a reduction in elasticity), while new clothes or transport services may be considered more of a luxury (an increase in elasticity). Ageing populations will have an impact on the overall structure of consumption: for example, the growing number of very old people will likely result in increased demand for a range of health and long-term care services that are specifically adapted to the needs of very old people.

Households with retired people usually had lower than average levels of consumption expenditure

In 2015, mean consumption expenditure among households where the reference person was retired averaged 21 777 PPS across the whole of the EU-27. Expenditure peaked at 52 946 PPS in Luxembourg, with the next highest levels of mean consumption expenditure recorded in Belgium and Austria (both close to 30 000 PPS per household). At the other end of the range, the lowest levels of mean consumption expenditure among households where the reference person was retired — less than 10 000 PPS — were recorded in Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia (where the lowest level of expenditure was recorded, an average of 8 132 PPS per household).

In 2015, EU-27 households where the reference person was retired spent, on average, about four fifths (81.2 %) of the average level of expenditure across all households. Among the EU Member States, households where the reference person was retired usually had a lower level of consumption expenditure than the average for all households (see Figure 19). The only exception to the pattern observed for the EU-27 as a whole was Luxembourg, where the level of consumption by households where the reference person was retired was 6.2 % higher than the average for all households.

Figure 19: Mean consumption expenditure, by type of household, 2015
(PPS)
Source: Eurostat (hbs_exp_t135) and (hbs_exp_t131)

Households with older people spend proportionally more of their income on health

The structure of household consumption expenditure differs between age groups: in 2015, EU-27 households with a reference person aged 60 years or more tended to spend proportionally more of their expenditure on health (42 % higher than the average share for all households), on housing (including utilities and other fuel payments; 14 % higher), on food and non-alcoholic beverages (7 % higher) or on furnishings, household equipment and routine maintenance (4 % higher).

In the Baltic Member States and Romania, households with a reference person aged 60 years or more spent a relatively large proportion of their expenditure on health — at least 65 % more than the average spend for all households in 2015. In all EU Member States, households with a reference person aged 60 years or more spent a higher than average (for all households) share of their total expenditure on health, as well as on housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (see Figure 20).

Figure 20: Relative consumption expenditure of households with a reference person aged ≥60 years — higher consumption items, 2015
(%, relative to the share for all households = 100)
Source: Eurostat (hbs_str_t225) and (hbs_str_t211)

By contrast, EU-27 households with a reference person aged 60 years or more spent a lower proportion of their total expenditure on clothing and footwear (27 % less than the average for all households), on restaurants and hotels (26 % less), on transport (23 % less) and on communications (13 % less). Among the EU Member States, Malta was an exception insofar as Maltese households with a reference person aged 60 years or more spent a (slightly) higher than average proportion of their total expenditure on communications (see Figure 21).

Figure 21: Relative consumption expenditure of households with a reference person aged ≥60 years — lower consumption items, 2015
(%, relative to the share for all households = 100)
Source: Eurostat (hbs_str_t225) and (hbs_str_t211)

Close to two fifths of all older people living alone were unable to face unexpected financial expenses

While financial resources are the main factor in determining the risk of poverty, the focus for measuring material deprivation is on being able to afford the enforced inability (rather than choice) to pay for a range of basic products and services; many of these products and services are considered necessary for a normal standard of living.

In 2019, close to one third (31.4 %) of all EU-27 households were unable to face unexpected financial expenses [3]. A larger share (39.6 %) of households with one adult aged 65 years or more living alone in the EU-27 were unable to face unexpected financial expenses, while households composed of two adults (at least one of which was aged 65 years or more) were less likely to experience such difficulties (23.6 %).

In EU Member States where a relatively high share of all households were unable to face unexpected financial expenses in 2019, it was quite common to find that households with older people faced even greater difficulties, as can be seen for example in Croatia and Latvia (see Figure 22). This was most commonly the case for households with one adult aged 65 years or more. On the other hand, in Member States where a relatively low proportion of all households were unable to face unexpected financial expenses — principally across western and Nordic Member States — it was relatively common for an even lower share of households composed of older people to face such difficulties.

Figure 22: Households unable to face unexpected financial expenses, by type of household, 2019
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes04)

Older women were more likely than older men to be in a position where they could not afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week

Figure 23 provides information on a related topic, namely, the inability of people to afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week; examples include being able to go to the cinema, to buy a magazine or an ice cream.

A relatively high share of the EU population towards the end of their working lives (aged 55-64 years) faces various forms of in-work poverty, deprivation and exclusion. In 2015, 17.6 % of people aged 55-64 years in the EU-27 could not afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves, while just 10.7 % of very old people aged 85 years or more were unable to afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves. This form of material deprivation was systematically more prevalent among older women (than men) for each of the age groups presented in Figure 23.

Figure 23: People aged ≥55 years who cannot afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week, by sex and age group, EU-27, 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes12a)

There was a considerable degree of disparity between the EU Member States in terms of the proportion of older people (aged 65-74 years) who could not afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week (see Figure 24). In 2015, more than half (52.6 %) of the older people (both sexes) living in Romania faced this problem, while upwards of 40.0 % of the older people living in Greece and Bulgaria could not afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week. By contrast, there were six EU Member States where the share of older people (both sexes combined) unable to spend a small amount of money on themselves was less than 5.0 %; the lowest share being recorded in Finland (0.2 %). Older women were generally more likely (than older men) to be in a position where they could not afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week with the largest gender gaps in Bulgaria and Portugal. The only exceptions to this pattern were Lithuania, Greece, Denmark, Finland and Ireland, as a higher share of men (rather than women) could not afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week.

Figure 24: People aged 65-74 years who cannot afford to spend a small amount of money on themselves each week, by sex, 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes12a)

Notes

  1. The European quality of life survey (EQLS) was conducted by Eurofound from September 2016 to March 2017 measuring subjective well-being, optimism, health, standards of living and aspects of deprivation, as well as work/life balance among adults (aged 18 years or more).
  2. Flash Eurobarometer 473 on the euro area was coordinated by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communication; fieldwork was carried out in October 2018.
  3. Note that within the survey for EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) there may be some variation between countries in terms of the unexpected financial expenses that are covered — examples include financing medical surgery, a funeral, a house repair, or replacing consumer durables such as a new washing machine or a car.
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Total expenditure on social benefits (tps00102)
Expenditure on pensions (tps00103)
People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (t_ilc_pe)
Income distribution and monetary poverty (t_ilc_ip)
Social protection expenditure (spr_expend)
Pensions beneficiaries (spr_pension)
People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (ilc_pe)
Income distribution and monetary poverty (ilc_ip)
EU-SILC ad-hoc modules (ilc_ahm)
Mean consumption expenditure of private households (hbs_exp)
Structure of mean consumption expenditure (hbs_struc)