41 million Europeans 'severely materially deprived'

Written by Martin Banks on 14 April 2016 in News

Millions of Europeans are classed as "severely materially deprived", according to a damning new report.

The report, published on Thursday, said that some 8.2 per cent of the population, or around 41 million people in the EU, are severely materially deprived.

This means that they had living conditions "constrained" by a lack of resources such as not being able to afford to pay their bills, keep their home adequately warm, or take a one week holiday away from home. 

The findings sparked calls from one group for more to be done at EU level to tackle high levels of poverty in Europe.


In 2015, the proportion of persons severely materially deprived in the EU actually continued a downward trend which has been seen since reaching a peak in 2012 when it stood at 9.9 per cent.

The figures are contained in a report from Eurostat, the EU's statistical office which states that families with dependent children are affected more than households without children. 

Some 8.3 per cent of households with two and more adults with children suffer from severe material deprivation, compared with six per cent for those without dependent children.

The report notes that severe material deprivation hits 17.3 per cent of single parent families, compared with 11 per cent for single adults without dependent children. 

Severe material deprivation also affects single-adult households more than households composed of at least two adults.

Severe material deprivation is defined as "enforced inability" (rather than a choice not to do so) to afford at least four of nine items considered by most people to be desirable or even necessary to lead an adequate life.

The nine items are: to face unexpected expenses, afford a one week annual holiday away from home, a meal involving meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day, the adequate heating of a dwelling, durable goods (namely, a washing machine, a television set, telephone and car), and not being confronted with payment arrears (mortgage or rent, utility bills, hire purchase instalments or other loan payments).

Reacting to the report, Pierre Baussand, director of the Brussels-based Social Platform, told this website, "We are pleased whenever we see a decline in the number of people experiencing severe material deprivation. 

"However, we mustn't let this small decrease give us a false sense of security or allow ourselves to become complacent - 2015 still saw 41 million people living in the EU unable to live a life in dignity.

"The EU is far from meeting its 2010 commitment to bring 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020, with no concrete measures having been taken by EU member states to achieve this goal. The number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is higher today than it was when the EU sets itself this target.

"The 'European pillar of social rights' announced by the European Commission will hopefully go some way towards reducing the number of people experiencing severe material deprivation, but only if its reach extends beyond only employment and it includes a real, ambitious implementation plan.

"Strategies look good on paper, but at the end of the day it is everyday citizens who bear the consequences of the EU's inability to end its social emergency."

Meanwhile, from 2030 on, one in two retired Germans will be in danger of slipping below the poverty line.

That's according to a recent study by the German state broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk. 

It says pensions will not be high enough to maintain a good standard of living. After 2030, monthly pensions will amount to just about 43.5 per cent of the average wage a worker earned over his or her entire career.

In a separate report, Britain has been reprimanded by the UN over its record on reducing inequality among children, as a report revealed we lag behind some much poorer nations in achieving parity between rich and poor on health and educational outcomes.

The Unicef report, Fairness for Children, emphasised the importance of a strong welfare system in reducing inequality.

The UK ranked 25th out of 37 wealthy countries covered by the report - behind Poland, Romania and Slovenia - for its equality levels in children's reading, maths and science skills at age 15.


About the author

Martin Banks is a Brussels-based freelance journalist


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