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Living conditions in Europe - poverty and social exclusion

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Data extracted in: September 2022.

Planned article update: June 2023.

Highlights

In 2021, 95.4 million people in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion; this was equivalent to 21.7 % of the EU population.

The risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was, in 2021, higher for women than for men (22.7 % compared with 20.7 %).

Over one fifth (22.5 %) of the EU population living in households with dependent children was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021.

SILC 2022-01.jpg

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

Full article


Key findings

In 2021, an estimated 21.7 % of the EU population — or some 95.4 million people — were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

The risk of poverty and social exclusion is not dependent strictly on a household’s level of income, as it may also reflect joblessness, low work intensity, working status, or a range of other socio-economic characteristics. To calculate the number or share of people who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion three separate measures are combined and this covers those persons who are in at least one of these three situations:

  • persons who are at risk of poverty, in other words, with an equivalised disposable income that is below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold;
  • persons who suffer from severe material and social deprivation, in other words, those who cannot afford at least seven out of thirteen deprivation items (six related to the individual and seven related to the household) that are considered by most people to be desirable or even necessary to lead an adequate quality of life;
  • persons (aged less than 65 years) living in a household with very low work intensity, in other words, those living in households where adults worked equal to or less than 20 % of their total combined work-time potential during the previous twelve months.

The results presented in this article show that the risk of poverty or social exclusion was greater across the EU for women (rather than men), young adults (rather than middle-aged or elderly persons), people with a low level of educational attainment (rather than those with a medium or tertiary level of educational attainment) and, in particular, for unemployed people.

  • Over one fifth of the EU population living in households with dependent children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021 and the risk of poverty or social exclusion was slightly lower among households without dependent children.
  • Working status was unsurprisingly one of the main socio-economic characteristics that impacted upon the risk of poverty or social exclusion. In 2021, while the risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was 11.1 % for employed persons and 18.6 % for retired persons, it was almost two thirds (64.5 %) for unemployed people and stood at 42.3 % for other inactive persons, in other words people who — for a reason other than retirement — were not working or unemployed.
  • The risk of poverty or social exclusion varied considerably across the EU Member States. Romania (34.4 %), Bulgaria (31.7 %) and Greece (28.3 %) reported the highest shares of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion. In contrast, Finland, Slovenia and Czechia presented shares below 15.0 % (EU value being estimated at 21.7 %).


Poverty and social exclusion

Over one in five people in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion

In 2021, there were an estimated 95.4 million people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which was equivalent to 21.7 % of the total population. The number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which may be abbreviated as "AROPE", corresponds to the sum of persons who are (i) at risk of poverty (as indicated by their disposable income); and/or (ii) face severe material and social deprivation (as gauged by their ability to afford a set of predefined material items or social activities); and/or (iii) live in a household with very low work intensity.

Component indicators which contribute to an analysis of the risk of poverty or social exclusion

Figure 1 provides an analysis for the EU population of the various risks of poverty or social exclusion. Among the estimated 95.4 million inhabitants within the EU that faced the risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021, some 5.9 million lived in households experiencing simultaneously all three poverty and social exclusion risks. There were 12.2 million people in the EU living both at risk of poverty and in a household with very low work intensity (but not severely materially and socially deprived); 8.5 million were at risk of poverty and at the same time severely materially and socially deprived (but not in a household with very low work intensity); almost 2.0 million lived in households with very low work intensity while experiencing severe material deprivation (but were not at risk of poverty).

Figure 1: Number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion, analysed by type of risk, EU, 2021
(million)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pees01n)

The profile of people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion

Women, young adults, people with a low level of educational attainment and unemployed persons were, on average, more likely to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021 than other groups within the EU population (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Share of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion, analysed by socio-economic characteristic, EU, 2021 (%)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_peps01n), (ilc_peps02n) and (ilc_peps04n)

When analysed by sex, the risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was higher for women in 2021 than it was for men (22.7 % compared with 20.7 %).

There were notable differences when analysing the risk of poverty or social exclusion by age

When analysed by age, the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021 in the EU was recorded for young adults aged 18-24 years (27.3 %), while the lowest risk was recorded for people aged 65 and over (19.6 %). Between these two age groups, the risk of poverty or social exclusion was 20.2 % for people aged 25-49 years and 21.9 % among the population aged 50-64 years. The youngest age group, persons aged less than 18 years, also had a relatively high risk (24.4 %).

In addition to age, educational attainment had a considerable impact on the risk of poverty or social exclusion

In 2021, more than one third (34.8 %) of all persons aged 18 years and over with a low level of educational attainment (ISCED levels 0-2) in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with 10.3 % of people in the same age group with a tertiary (high) level of educational attainment (ISCED levels 5-8). The corresponding percentage for people with a medium level of educational attainment (ISCED levels 3-4) was 19.8 %.

Persons who were unemployed faced a particularly high risk of poverty or social exclusion

In the EU, almost two thirds (64.5 %) of the unemployed aged 18 years and over were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021. Inactive persons (other than in retirement) faced the second-highest risk on the basis of an analysis by activity status, with 42.3 % at risk. For comparison, the share of people in retirement who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion was 18.6 % and the share of employed persons was 11.1 %.

In the EU as a whole, the risk of poverty or social exclusion for households with dependent children was a little higher than for those without

In 2021, more than one fifth (22.5 %) of people living in households with dependent children in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion which was close to the respective share among households without dependent children (20.9 %). Nevertheless, these rates varied considerably across the EU Member States. For people living in households with dependent children, the rate ranged from highs of 35.4 % in Romania, 31.7 % in Greece and 31.5 % in Spain down to 11.4 % in Finland, 10.7 % in Czechia and 9.9 % in Slovenia (see Figure 2). For those in households without dependent children, the rates varied from 33.8 % in Bulgaria, 33.4 % in Latvia and 33.3 % Romania to 13.9 % in Slovakia and 10.8 % in Czechia.


Figure 3: Share of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion for households with or without dependent children, 2021 (%)
(%)
Source: Eurostat (ilc_peps03n)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The data used in this article are 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.

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

At risk of poverty or social exclusion, abbreviated as AROPE, corresponds to the sum of persons who are either at risk of poverty, or severely materially and socially deprived or living in a household with a very low work intensity. People are included only once even if they are in more than one of these situations. The AROPE ratio is the share of the total population which is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The headline target (EU2030 target) on poverty and social inclusion of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 15 million by 2030. Progress towards this target is monitored through the AROPE rate, published by Eurostat. In 2021, the AROPE indicator was modified. The severe material deprivation rate component was revised, defining a new severe material and social deprivation rate (SMSD) based on a revised list of items, and the low work intensity indicator relating to persons living in a household with a very low work intensity was redefined. The revised AROPE indicator is used to monitor the headline target on poverty and social inclusion of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.

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