Poverty in Europe

People at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the European Union

In 2010 the EU adopted the Europe 2020 Strategy. This strategy focuses on five targets. One of these is a poverty target which is to “lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020”. There were 27 countries in the EU at the time and 115.9 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion. There are now almost 117 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU 27 (or over 118 million in the EU 28 as Croatia joined since the target was set).

At the same time the EU agreed a way of measuring the numbers of people who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This is by adding up the number of persons who are at risk of poverty, severely materially deprived or living in households with very low work intensity. Persons present in several sub-indicators are counted only once.

  • Persons at risk of poverty have an equivalised disposable income below 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable median (middle) income. Equivalised is a way of dividing the income coming into a household between the adults (1.0 for the first adult and 0.66 for all other adults) and children (0.33 for each child) to come up with the amount for an individual.
  • Material deprivation covers indicators relating to economic strain and durables. This covers the share of population living in households lacking at least 4 out of the following 9 items: i) to pay rent or utility bills, ii) keep home adequately warm, iii) face unexpected expenses, iv) eat meat, fish or a protein equivalent every second day, v) a week holiday away from home, or could not afford (even if wanted to) vi) a car, vii) a washing machine, viii) a colour TV, or ix) a telephone.
  • Persons are considered living in households with very low work intensity if they are aged 0-59 and the working age members in the household worked less than 20 % of their potential during the past year.

Since the EU target to reduce poverty and social exclusion was set (based on 2009 levels) the number has grown instead of reducing. In 2016 there were over 118 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the 28 EU countries (almost 117 million in the EU 27).