Statistics Explained

Living conditions in Europe - material deprivation and economic strain


Data extracted in February 2022.

Planned article update: February 2023.

Highlights

In 2020, 8.6 % of the overall EU population and more than one in five people at risk of poverty were unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day.

In 2020, 12.8 % of the overall EU population faced material and social deprivation and 6.8 % severe material and social deprivation.

In 2020, 56.7 % of people living in single-adult households with dependent children in the EU were unable to meet unexpected financial expenses.

[[File:Living conditions - economic strain 2022 dynamic V3.xlsx]]

Share of the population unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, 2020

Material and social 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 and most of the EFTA and candidate countries.

Full article

Key findings

In 2020, 12.8 % of the EU population faced material and social deprivation and 6.8 % severe material and social deprivation. People are considered in (severe) material and social deprivation if they cannot afford (seven or more) five or more of the thirteen standard deprivation items. Please refer to the data sources section of this article for a list of the thirteen items.

A more detailed analysis of the individual items that are used to determine material and social deprivation reveals, for instance, that in 2020 8.6 % of the whole population in the EU 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 21.7 %. Regarding the ability to meet unexpected financial expenses, in 2020, 56.7 % of the EU population living in single-adult households with dependent children were unable to meet unexpected financial expenses.

Material and social deprivation

As shown in Figure 1, severe material and social deprivation rates for the EU Member States were generally considerably lower than the at-risk-of-poverty rates in 2020.

Figure 1: Severe material and social deprivation rate and at-risk-of poverty rate, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_li02) and (ilc_mdsd11)

For the EU, the severe material and social deprivation rate was 6.8 % in 2020 (compared with an at-risk-of-poverty rate of 17.1 %). Among the EU Member States, severe material and social deprivation rates ranged from 1.7 % in Luxembourg, 1.8 % in Finland and 1.9 % in Czechia, to 14.9 % in Greece, 22.1 % in Bulgaria and 25.3 % in Romania.

Population less than 65 years and females are more likely to experience material and social deprivation

In 2020, 12.8 % of the EU population experienced material and social deprivation but the situation was very different from one country to another as shown in Table 1. Among the EU Member States, less than 5.0 % of the total population in Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden was recorded as being materially and socially deprived in 2020; this was also the case in Iceland (2018 data), Norway and Switzerland.

However, more than 30.0 % of the population in three of the EU Member States was unable to afford five or more items in 2020. The highest shares — above 30.0 % of the population — were recorded in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania (where a peak of 38.9 % was recorded).

Table 1: Material and social deprivation rate, analysed by sex and age group, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdsd07)

Across the EU, people aged 65 years and over recorded the lowest material and social deprivation rate (11.5 %) compared to people aged 18-64 years and people aged less than 18 years (12.9  % and 14.1 % respectively). This pattern was observed for most EU Member States (14). On the contrary, in the majority of EU Member States with a diverging pattern, people aged 65 years and over recorded a higher material and social deprivation rate compared to people belonging to the other two age groups (in 10 out of the 13 EU Member States). The highest material and social deprivation rates among the three age groups, were recorded for people aged 65 years and over in Bulgaria (48.5 %) and Romania (48.2 %).

In 2020, the material and social deprivation rate was higher for women than for men by 1.4 percentage points for the overall EU population as well as for the EU population in the age groups 18-64 years and 65 and over. The only exception was for the age group less than 18 years for which the material and social deprivation rate was higher for men compared to women.

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

In 2020, 13.9 % of the EU population living in single-adult households with dependent children was considered to be severely materially and socially deprived; this was the highest share among the different household compositions as shown in Table 2. The second biggest severe material and social deprivation rate was recorded for the population living in households composed of two adults with three or more dependent children (10.1 %). The severe material and social deprivation rate was also considerably higher than the overall average (6.8 %) among households composed of single adults: the rates were 9.5 % for single females and 9.2 % for single males.

Table 2: Severe material and social deprivation rate, analysed by household composition, 2020 (%)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdsd13)

Across the individual EU Member States in 2020:

  • Single-adult households with dependent children were most likely to experience severe material and social deprivation (when compared with the other household compositions) in 16 EU Member States. These percentages ranged from 0.6 % in Luxembourg up to 31.9 % in Greece and 39.6 % in Romania;
  • The biggest severe material and social deprivation rates among all household compositions were recorded in Romania (47.5 %) and Bulgaria (45.1 %) for persons living in households composed of two adults with three or more dependent children as well as in Greece (31.9 %) for persons living in households composed of single adults with dependent children;
  • In eleven EU Member States, severe material and social deprivation rates for the populations living in households without children were higher compared with the population living in households with children with a difference of 0.8 to 4 percentage points.


Economic strain

8.6 % of the whole EU population and more than one in five people at risk of poverty were unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day

In 2020, more than one fifth (21.7 %) of people across the EU 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 2). This share among the EU Member States ranged from 3.8 % in Cyprus and 3.9 % in Ireland up to 36.0 % in Slovakia, 45.6 % in Greece and 54.6 % in Bulgaria.

Figure 2: Share of the population unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, 2020 (%)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes03)

The share of the total EU population unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day was 8.6 %. This share ranged from 25.9 % in Bulgaria, to less than 2.0 % in Cyprus (1.1 %), Ireland (1.5 %) and Sweden (1.9 %).

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

The ability to meet 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, 34.1 % of the EU population living in households with dependent children was unable to meet unexpected financial expenses in 2020, compared with 31.6 % of the population who were living in households without children (see Table 3) Among households with dependent children, the higher shares were observed for households with two adults and three or more dependent children (40.2 %) and especially for households composed of a single adult with dependent children (56.7 %).

Table 3: Share of the population unable to meet unexpected financial expenses, analysed by household composition, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes04)

Across the EU Member States, at least 40.0 % of the population living in households with dependent children in 2020 were unable to meet unexpected financial expenses in Latvia, Ireland, Germany, Croatia, Romania, Cyprus and Greece (where a share of 54.5 % was recorded). In contrast, this share was less than one quarter in Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Austria, Czechia, the Netherlands, and Malta (where a share of 16.9 % was recorded).

A more detailed analysis reveals that more than half (56.7 %) of the EU population living in single adult households with dependent children were not able to meet unexpected financial expenses. This is especially true in 2020 in Cyprus (74.0 %), Greece (74.1 %) and Ireland (where a peak of 79.7 % was recorded, the highest among all household compositions 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 less than a quarter (24.5 %) of individuals in the EU were unable to meet unexpected financial expenses in 2020.


3.3 % of the whole EU population and one in ten people at risk of poverty were unable to afford an internet connection

In 2020, 3.3 % of the EU population was unable to afford an internet connection (see Figure 3). Among the EU Member States, the share of the population in this situation was highest in Bulgaria, at one tenth (10.1 %) and in Romania, at one fifth (19.8 %). By contrast, less than 1.0 % of the population was unable to afford internet connection in the Netherlands (0.4 %), Sweden, Luxembourg (both 0.5 %), Finland (0.6 %), Cyprus, Denmark (both 0.7 %) and Austria (0.9 %).

Figure 3: Share of the population unable to afford internet connection, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mddu07a)

In 2020, one tenth (9.7 %) of people across the EU who were at risk of poverty reported an inability to afford an internet connection. Among the EU Member States, this share ranged from 1.1 % in Sweden and 1.3 % in Luxembourg and the Netherlands up to 26.6 % in Bulgaria and 40.9 % in Romania.

8.6 % of the whole EU population and one in five people at risk of poverty were living in households with arrears

In 2020, 8.6 % of the EU population was living in households with arrears regarding mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase (see Figure 4) . This share was higher in Bulgaria (23.6 %) and in Greece (36.5 %). By contrast, less than 5.0 % of the population were living in households with arrears regarding mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase in Czechia (3.0 %), the Netherlands (3.2 %), Sweden and Luxembourg (both 4.9 %).

Figure 4: Share of the population living in households with arrears (mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase) 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_mdes05)

In 2020, almost one fifth (19.1 %) of people across the EU who were at risk of poverty reported living in households with arrears regarding mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase. Among the EU Member States, the share ranged from 9.2 % in Germany and 9.8 % in Estonia and the Netherlands up to 45.0 % in Bulgaria and 58.4 % in Greece.

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 and social deprivation indicators

Material and social deprivation indicators provide a measure related to the (in)ability of individuals to be able to afford a set of thirteen predefined material items that are considered by most people to be desirable or even necessary to experience an adequate quality of life. The list of thirteen items includes the following (7 related to the household and 6 related to the individual):

At household level:

  • Capacity to face unexpected expenses
  • Capacity to afford paying for one week annual holiday away from home
  • Capacity to being confronted with payment arrears (on mortgage or rental payments, utility bills, hire purchase instalments or other loan payments)
  • Capacity to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day
  • Ability to keep home adequately
  • Have access to a car/van for personal use
  • Replacing worn-out furniture

At individual level:

  • Having internet connection
  • Replacing worn-out clothes by some new ones
  • Having two pairs of properly fitting shoes (including a pair of all-weather shoes)
  • Spending a small amount of money each week on him/herself
  • Having regular leisure activities
  • Getting together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month

The material and social deprivation rate is defined as the proportion of the population that is unable to afford five or more out of this list of thirteen items.

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

The severe material and social deprivation indicator (SMSD) 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.

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 has been promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth to improve its competitiveness and productivity, underpinning its social market economy, taking also a range of socio-economic aspects 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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