Risk of poverty

In 2017 (income year 2016), 15.9% of the population in Belgium was at risk of poverty. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must be reduced. This objective will not be reached by continuing the trend since 2004. The risk of poverty is therefore developing unfavourably.

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Risk of poverty - Belgium and international comparison

percentage of total population

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
Belgium14.314.814.615.314.915.515.90.80.8
EU28----16.516.817.317.316.9--0.1
//: Average Growth Rates

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2019), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li02, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 02/04/2019).

At-risk-of-poverty threshold - Belgium

for a single person, according to EU-SILC surveys (2004-2017, income data 2003-2016)

 thousands of euros per year

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
Belgium9.49.911.712.213.013.413.72.92.4
//: Average Growth Rates

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2018), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li01, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 06/09/2018).

Risk of poverty by sex - Belgium

percentage of population

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
females15.115.515.215.915.616.516.90.91.2
males13.414.113.914.714.114.414.90.80.3
//: Average Growth Rates

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2018), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li02, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 06/09/2018).

Risk of poverty by age - Belgium

percentage of population

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
<1815.918.118.317.318.017.818.61.21.5
18-6412.112.012.113.513.714.715.01.72.1
>6420.921.419.419.415.215.416.0-2.0-3.8
//: Average Growth Rates

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2018), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li02, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 06/09/2018).

Risk of poverty by education - Belgium

percentage of population aged 18 years and over

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
less than primary, primary and lower secondary education22.321.723.025.124.926.327.51.61.8
upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education11.811.510.712.213.614.114.31.53.2
tertiary education5.94.75.57.46.76.86.40.6-2.9
//: Average Growth Rates

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2018), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li07, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 26/09/2018).

Risk of poverty by household type - Belgium

percentage of population

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
single person21.222.018.820.221.221.821.90.31.6
single person with dependent children32.933.235.333.935.741.439.71.53.2
two adults14.512.013.214.310.411.511.8-1.6-3.8
two adults with one dependent child9.59.09.211.79.511.912.72.31.7
two adults with two dependent children8.39.710.68.29.38.28.50.20.7
two adults with three or more dependent children16.119.616.518.221.119.219.11.31.0
//: Average Growth Rates

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2018), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li03, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 06/09/2018).

Risk of poverty by activity status - Belgium

percentage of population aged 18 years and over

 20042005201020122015201620172017//20042017//2012
employed4.03.94.54.54.64.75.01.72.1
not employed23.523.722.324.723.224.525.10.50.3
unemployed27.930.730.434.840.745.949.14.47.1
retired17.919.116.116.712.413.313.7-2.0-3.9
other inactive27.425.625.829.531.533.334.11.72.9
//: Average Growth Rates

break in time series: 2013

Statistics Belgium; Eurostat (2018), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_li04, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 17/09/2018).

Definition: the share of the population at risk of poverty is the ratio of the number of persons with a net equivalised disposable income below 60% of the national median, to the total population. Net disposable income is equal to the sum of the gross incomes of all household members less taxes, social security contributions and transfers between households (EC, 2016). In order to obtain the net equivalised disposable income, the net disposable income is divided by an equivalence factor (the so-called 'modified OECD' equivalence scale). An adult has a factor of 1, each additional person from the age of 14 a factor of 0.5 and each additional person under the age of 14 a factor of 0.3. The net equivalised disposable income makes it possible to compare the standard of living of people, taking into account the economies of scale resulting from a joint household and the composition of the household. It is assumed that the standard of living of persons with a net equivalised disposable income below 60% of the national median in the total population is insufficient to meet the minimum acceptable living patterns in Belgium.

The data used here on the people at risk of poverty are based on the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) survey, with income data that relate to the year preceding the survey year. Statbel organises this EU-harmonised survey in Belgium and makes the results available, in particular to Eurostat. The data used here come from Eurostat, which publishes detailed and comparable results between EU Member States. Since these data are based on a survey, a margin of uncertainty has to be taken into account. The confidence intervals are available on request from Statbel.

Goal: the share and the number of persons at risk of poverty must be reduced.

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 10.2: “By 2030, enable and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic or other status”.

In addition to target 10.2, the SDGs contain the following targets: “Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including through eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and actions in this regard” (target 10.3); “By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions” (target 1.2) and “By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average (target 10.1).

People at risk of poverty are part of the target group for which the Europe 2020 strategy (European Commission, 2010) has set a reduction target, the so-called people at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In relation with the follow-up of the Europe 2020 strategy and the setting of possible reduction targets at EU level for 2030, it can be reported that early 2019 the EC presented a reflection paper with three scenarios for a sustainable Europe by 2030. The paper mentions the indicator discussed here (European Commission, 2019).

Here the basic principle is that the standard of living of people at risk of poverty is insufficient to meet the minimum acceptable living patterns in Belgium. The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision has set the following ambition for 2050, which goes beyond the SDGs or the Europe 2020 strategy: “Everyone will have an income from work, from property or from social protection systems and will have access to services of general interest. In this way, everyone will be able to meet all the needs for a decent life during all phases of his life” (objective 2, Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).

International comparison: the risk of poverty in the EU28 is higher than in Belgium. Between 2010 and 2017, it increased from 16.5% to 16.9%. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with average performances in 2017 and performs better than the European average.

UN indicator: the selected indicator corresponds to indicator 10.2.1 - Proportion of people living below 50 per cent of median income, by age, sex and persons with disabilities. The UN uses 50% as the income threshold, while the indicator selected here assumes 60%, as in the EU definition.

Sources

  • SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.

  • Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.

  • UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ (consulted on 26/04/2019).

  • Sustainable Development Goal indicators website: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/ (consulted on 26/04/2019).

More information is available in FR (French) and NL (Dutch).