Statistics Explained

Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion



Data extracted in October 2021.

Planned article update: November 2022.

Highlights

24.2 % of children in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2020, more than working-aged adults and older people.

In 2020, households composed of a single person with dependent children recorded the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU (42.1 %).

In 2020, 71.9 % of very low work intensity households with dependent children were at risk of poverty in the EU.

EU-CHILDREN-POVERTY final.jpg

This article presents statistical data on the situation of children (aged less than 18 years) in the European Union (EU) who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE).

The analysis compares children with working-age adults (aged 18-64 years) and older people (aged 65 years and over), and also examines the impact of the household type, employment situation, parents' educational level, parents’ migrant background and severe material and social deprivation. All figures are based on statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) available from Eurostat’s online database. EU-SILC data are available for the EU Member States, as well as most of the EFTA and candidate countries.

Full article

Key findings

In 2020, an estimated 24.2 % of children (aged less than 18 years) in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion compared with 21.7 % of working-age adults (aged 18-64 years) and 20.4 % of older people (aged 65 years and over).

Factors influencing the risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU in 2020 included:

  • type of household — households composed of a single person with dependent children (42.1 %), single persons (33.2 %) and two adults with three or more dependent children (29.6 %) had the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion;
  • work intensity — 71.9 % of the population aged less than 60 years living in very low work intensity households with dependent children were at risk of poverty;
  • level of education — 50.5 % of children whose parents’ level of education was low were at risk of poverty compared with 7.7 % of children whose parents’ level of education was high;
  • migrant background — children with at least one parent with a migrant background were at a greater risk of poverty than children whose parents were both native born (32.9 % compared with 15.3 %);
  • living conditions — 14.1 % of households composed of a single person with dependent children were severely materially deprived compared with 7.5 % of all households with dependent children.

Children growing up in poverty and social exclusion

Children growing up in poverty and social exclusion are less likely to do well in school, enjoy good health and realise their full potential later in life, when they are at a higher risk of becoming unemployed, poor and socially excluded

The risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) is defined as the share of the population in at least one of the following three conditions:

  1. at risk of poverty, meaning below the poverty threshold,
  2. in a situation of severe material and social deprivation,
  3. living in a household with a very low work intensity.

From 2015 to 2020, the risk of poverty or social exclusion for children fell in the EU from 27.5 % to 24.2 % (see Figure 1). However, in four EU Member States the risk of poverty or social exclusion for children was higher in 2020 than it had been in 2015, namely in Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and France. Among the Member States where the risk was lower in 2020 than it had been in 2015, the largest decreases in the risk of poverty or social exclusion were observed in Hungary (down 18.9 points), Romania (down 12.5 points), Latvia (down 12.0 points; 2019 data), Lithuania (down 11.7 points) and Bulgaria (down 11.6 points).

Figure 1: Share of children aged less than 18 years at risk of poverty or social exclusion, 2015 and 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_peps01n)

Regarding the overall situation in 2020 (see Table 1), the share of children living in a household at risk of poverty or social exclusion ranged from 12.1 % in Slovenia, to 36.2 % in Bulgaria and 41.5 % in Romania. The average for the EU was 24.2 %.

Table 1: Share of persons at risk of poverty or social exclusion, by age group, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_peps01n)

The risk of poverty or social exclusion varies across age groups. In 2020, 24.2 % of children (aged less than 18 years) in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion compared with 21.7 % of working-age adults (aged 18-64 years) and 20.4 % of older people (aged 65 years and over). Children were the age group with the highest at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rates in 13 out of the 27 EU Member States (including 2019 data for Ireland, Italy and Latvia). In 2020, in Latvia (2019 data), Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, Poland and Czechia, older people were most at risk, while in Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland, working-age adults were the age group had the highest risk. Despite the fact that either older people or working-age adults had the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in countries in these two groups, children had the second highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in most of them. In fact, looking at all 27 Member States, children only had the lowest risk of poverty or social exclusion among these three age groups in Latvia (2019 data), Estonia, Poland and Slovenia.

In most EU Member States, the risk of poverty or social exclusion for children was above that for the whole population. In 2020, the largest differences — where the rate for children exceeded that for the whole population by 4.0 percentage points or more — were observed in Greece, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Spain, Austria and Romania. By contrast, in eight Member States the risk of poverty or social exclusion for children was below that for the whole population, with the difference most pronounced in Latvia (2019 data), where the rate for children was 7.9 points lower, and in Estonia, where the rate for children was 5.4 points lower.

The highest risk of poverty or social exclusion

The main factors affecting child poverty or social exclusion, after taking account of the effect of social transfers in reducing child poverty, are the composition of the household in which the children live and the labour market situation of their parents, which in turn is linked to some extent to the parents’ level of education.

Household structure has a significant effect on the risk of poverty or social exclusion

People living in different types of households have different at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion profiles (see Figure 2). When defining household types, the concept of dependent children (individuals aged less than 18 years or aged 18-24 years if economically inactive and living with at least one parent) is used instead of the concept of children (aged less than 18 years).

Figure 2: Share of the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion, analysed by household type, EU, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_peps03n)

In the case of people living in single-person households with dependent children in the EU, 42.1 % were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2020, compared with 15.7 % of people living in households with two adults and one dependent child. More generally, the risk of poverty or social exclusion for a single person with dependent children was 19.9 percentage points higher than the average for all types of households with dependent children (42.1 % compared with 22.3 %). Some other household types with dependent children also recorded relatively high rates for the risk of poverty or social exclusion, for example, 29.6 % for people living in households with two adults and three or more dependent children and 25.2 % for people living in households with three or more adults with dependent children.

It should, however, be noted that the risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU for people living in households with dependent children was broadly the same in 2020 as for people living in households without dependent children, with 22.3 % and 21.6 % respectively. As such, people living in households without dependent children had a comparable risk of poverty or social exclusion. The rate for single-person households without dependent children was with 33.2 % the 2nd highest of all analysed household types.

Highest risk of poverty in very low work intensity households with dependent children

Labour is the most important source of income for most households and thus has an impact on the risk of poverty. Work intensity reflects how much working-age adults in a household worked in relation to their total work potential in a year. Living in a household with a very low work intensity is one of the three criteria for someone being at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Very low work intensity includes households in which all working-age adults are jobless and also those where some — but only a very low amount of — work is done. Specifically, people who live in a household with very low work intensity are defined as people who live in a household where, on average, the working-age adults worked less than or equal to 20 % of their potential working time in a year.

Figure 3 provides an analysis of the subpopulation of people aged less than 60 years, looking at the share that are at risk of poverty depending on the work intensity of their households and whether or not there are dependent children in the household.

In the EU, 71.9 % of people living in households with very low work intensity with dependent children were at risk of poverty, compared with 52.5 % for people living in households with very low work intensity but without dependent children. The share of households with higher work intensities (from low to very high) was 14.0 % for people living in households with dependent children and 9.6 % for those living in households without dependent children.

Figure 3: Share of the population aged less than 60 years at risk of poverty, analysed by work intensity of the household, EU, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li06)

As can be seen from Figure 3, people living in households with dependent children were at a greater risk of poverty than those living in households without dependent children across all levels of work intensity in the EU in 2020, except for very high work intensity. Furthermore, the gap in the risk of poverty between households with and without dependent children increased as the work intensity decreased. This difference in the at-risk-of-poverty rate ranged from -0.5 percentage points for very high work intensity households to 19.4 points for very low work intensity households.

Impact of parents’ education on the risk of poverty

Around half of the children in the EU whose parents did not attain more than a lower secondary education were at risk of poverty

Education affects the type of job an individual can access and the risk of poverty rises as the level of education diminishes. In the EU, just over half (50.5 %) of children living in households in which the highest level of education attained by the parents living in the same household was at most lower secondary level (ISCED levels 0-2) were at risk of poverty in 2020, compared with 7.7 % for children living in households in which the highest level of education attained by their parents was a tertiary level of education (ISCED levels 5-8) — see Figure 4. The risk of poverty gap based on the parents’ level of education — between the highest and lowest levels of education — was therefore 42.8 percentage points.

Figure 4: Share of children aged less than 18 years at risk of poverty, analysed by the highest level of education attained by their parents, EU, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li60)

The difference between the risk of poverty for children with parents with low and high levels of education ranged among the EU Member States from 20.9 percentage points in Estonia and 21.8 points in Hungary to 70.3 points in Bulgaria and 72.8 points in Romania.

Parents’ country of birth and the risk of poverty: migrant background also matters

Children in the EU with a migrant background had a higher risk of poverty

In 2020, children with at least one foreign-born parent were at greater risk of poverty than children with native-born parents (see Figure 5). The difference was 17.6 percentage points, resulting from a rate of 32.9 % for children with at least one foreign-born parent compared with 15.3 % for children whose parents had both been born in the reporting country.

The greatest differences in 2020 between children with native-born parents and those with at least one foreign-born parent were recorded in Sweden (31.6 percentage points higher for children with at least one foreign-born parent) and Spain (30.5 points higher). For 12 EU Member States, the difference was more than 12.0 points. In nine of the remaining Member States the rate for children with at least one foreign-born parent was less than 5.0 points higher than for children with native-born parents. In six Member States for which data are available — Latvia (2019 data), Portugal, Czechia, Lithuania, Hungary and Malta — the at-risk-of-poverty rate was even higher for children with native-born parents, although the difference in the rates was in all cases below 10.0 percentage points (0.2-8.7 points).

Figure 5: Share of children aged less than 18 years at risk of poverty, analysed by country of birth of their parents, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li34)

In Spain, almost half (49.0 %) of children with at least one foreign-born parent were at risk of poverty in 2020, which was the highest rate among the EU Member States. The next highest rates were 38.1 % in Sweden and 35.7 % in Austria. The lowest rates were observed in Czechia (6.0 %) and Hungary (1.8 %).

Severe material and social deprivation rates in different types of households

In 2020, people living in the EU in households composed of a single person with dependent children were more likely to be severely materially and socially deprived than people living in other households with dependent children

Indicators of material and social deprivation provide a complementary view of well-being and living conditions (see ad hoc modules on material deprivation). Unlike the risk of poverty, which is an indicator based on income relative to a national average, the indicators of material (and social) deprivation and severe material (and social) deprivation are absolute measures: the material deprivation rate measures the share of people who are unable to afford at least three out of nine items considered to be desirable or even necessary to lead an adequate life, the severe material and social deprivation rate at least seven out of 13 deprivation items. See the Data sources section below for more information.

In 2020, 7.5 % of people living in the EU in households with dependent children were severely materially and socially deprived, the rate recorded for households without dependent children was 6.3 % — see Figure 6. Among the types of households with dependent children shown in Figure 6, people living in households composed of a single person with children had the highest severe material and social deprivation rate, 14.1 %. Other types of households with dependent children that also had above average severe material and social deprivation rates were relatively large, such as those composed of two adults with three or more dependent children (10.3 %) and those composed of three or more adults with dependent children (10.2 %). By contrast, people living in households composed of two adults with one (5.0 %) or two dependent children (4.6 %) were less likely to face severe material and social deprivation.

Figure 6: Severe material and social deprivation rate, analysed by household type, EU, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdsd13)

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.

At-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate (AROPE) — this indicator is the headline indicator to monitor the Europe 2020 strategy’s poverty target. It reflects the share of the population which is at risk of poverty, and/or severely materially deprived and/or lives in a household with very low work intensity.

At-risk-of-poverty rate (AROP) — this indicator is the share of people with an equivalised disposable income (after social transfer) below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income after social transfers. This indicator does not measure wealth or poverty, but low income in comparison to other residents in that country, which does not necessarily imply a low standard of living.

The severe material and social deprivation rate (SMSD) shows an enforced lack of necessary and desirable items to lead an adequate life. The indicator distinguishes between individuals who cannot afford a certain good, service or social activities. It is defined as the proportion of the population experiencing an enforced lack of at least seven out of 13 deprivation items (six related to the individual and seven related to the household). It is a concept that may be used to complement a relative analysis of monetary poverty by providing information on absolute poverty.

List of items at household level:

  1. Capacity to face unexpected expenses;
  2. capacity to afford paying for one week annual holiday away from home;
  3. capacity to being confronted with payment arrears (on mortgage or rental payments, utility bills, hire purchase instalments or other loan payments);
  4. capacity to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day;
  5. ability to keep home adequately warm;
  6. have access to a car/van for personal use;
  7. replacing worn-out furniture.

List of items at individual level:

  1. Having internet connection;
  2. replacing worn-out clothes by some new ones;
  3. having two pairs of properly fitting shoes (including a pair of all-weather shoes);
  4. spending a small amount of money each week on him/herself;
  5. having regular leisure activities;
  6. getting together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month.

The SMSD indicator is part of the at risk of poverty or social exclusion rate defined in the framework of the EU 2030 target on poverty and social exclusion.

The material deprivation rate measures the proportion of the population that cannot afford at least three of the nine items.

Children with migrant background — a child is considered to have a migrant background if at least one of the parents living with him/her was foreign born. On the other hand, a child is considered to be native-born if both parents living in the household are native-born or, if there is only one parent in the household, that parent is native-born.

Highest level of education attained by parents living in the child's household — educational activities are classified according to ISCED — the international standard classification of education. The 2011 version has the following levels:

  • ISCED level 0 — early childhood education;
  • ISCED level 1 — primary education;
  • ISCED level 2 — lower secondary education;
  • ISCED level 3 — (upper) secondary education;
  • ISCED level 4 — post-secondary non-tertiary education;
  • ISCED level 5 — short-cycle tertiary education;
  • ISCED level 6 — bachelor’s or equivalent level;
  • ISCED level 7 — master’s or equivalent level;
  • ISCED level 8 — doctoral or equivalent level.

Context

EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) is the reference source for statistics and indicators on income and living conditions. Its legal basis is the Framework Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003.

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People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (ilc_pe)
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