Material deprivation and low work intensity statistics
From Statistics Explained
- Data from March 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article describes the non-monetary components of the social inclusion headline indicator "people at risk of poverty or social exclusion" set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy: people living in households with very low work intensity and people severely materially deprived. The monitoring of progress towards the EU 2020 headline target, namely to reduce substantially the number of people at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion, will be based on past trends of the headline indicator number of people at-risk-of-poverty or exclusion (AROPE), for the total population and for the main groups at risk at the European Union (EU) level. The non-monetary components of the headline indicator, which are material deprivation and work intensity, are primarily examined. These measures of poverty and social exclusion are analysed together with the monetary component (at-risk-of poverty rate) in order to acquire a deeper understanding of poverty.
Main statistical findings
Material deprivation and severe material deprivation
Alongside income-related measures of poverty, a broader perspective of social inclusion can be obtained by studying other measures, for example, those relating to material deprivation. An analysis of material deprivation provides a more absolute rather than a relative analysis, as used for income poverty. The definition of material deprivation is based on the inability to afford a selection of items that are considered to be necessary or desirable, namely: having arrears on mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, hire purchase installments or other loan payments; not being able to afford one week’s annual holiday away from home; not being able to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day; not being able to face unexpected financial expenses; not being able to buy a telephone (including mobile phone); not being able to buy a colour television; not being able to buy a washing machine; not being able to buy a car; or not being able to afford heating to keep the house warm. The material deprivation rate is defined as the proportion of persons who cannot afford to pay for at least three out of the nine items specified above, while those who are unable to afford four or more items are considered to be severely materially deprived.
Slightly more than one in every six (18.2 %) members of the EU-27 population was materially deprived in 2011, with just under half of these (8.8 % of the total population) being considered as experiencing severe material deprivation. The proportion of people that were materially deprived was highest in Bulgaria (60.1 %), Latvia (49.2 %) and Romania (47.7 %) among the EU Member States, with more than half of the materially-deprived persons in each of these countries experiencing severe material deprivation. Similarly, in Hungary, Lithuania and Greece (which reported the next three highest material deprivation rates), more than half of those considered as materially deprived experienced severe material deprivation. Less than one in ten people in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, Austria and Switzerland were materially deprived (see Figure 1).
Focusing upon severe material deprivation (Figure 2), in 2011 only 1.2 % of the population were severely deprived in Luxembourg and Sweden and 3.5 % or less were classified as being materially-deprived in the other Nordic countries and the Netherlands. Switzerland also had a very small percentage (1.0 %) of the population that were classified as being severely materially deprived. On the other hand, in Bulgaria and Latvia, more than 30 % of the population were found to be severely materially deprived, while more than 20 % of the population in Hungary and Romania fell within this category. Overall at the EU-27 level, the rate of severe material deprivation increased by 0.5 pp (and by 0.9 pp in the Euro area countries) between 2010 and 2011. The largest increases among the EU countries, were observed in Italy (4.3 pp), Latvia (4 pp), Greece (3.6 pp) and Hungary (1.5 pp), . Severe material deprivation decreased in Bulgaria (-2.1 pp) and to a lesser extent in Romania (-1.6 pp), Poland (-1.2 pp) and Lithuania (-1.0 pp).
Factors of material deprivation rate
Inability to afford unexpected financial expenses, followed by inability to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day showed the greatest variability between 2010 and 2011
Among the factors (‘items’) that are considered in determining the material deprivation rate, facing unexpected expenses and inability to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or a vegetarian equivalent) every second day showed the greatest absolute difference (1.3 and 1.0 pp respectively) at EU-27 level between 2010 and 2011. In 2011, around 37.5 % of the EU population reported difficulties in facing such unexpected expenses, which represents an increase of 1.3 pp compared with 2010 (Figure 3). Regarding the inability to afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish (or vegetarian equivalent), in 2011 9.7 % of the EU population reported that they could not afford this item. This represents an increase of 1 pp compared with 2010 (Figure 4). Changes in that deprivation item is in some cases correlated with the decrease in income in the lowest quintiles.
There is considerable variation among Member States for both items. The percentage of people reporting difficulties to face unexpected expenses is 25 % or less in Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark as well as in Norway and Switzerland; while it is above 60 % in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Hungary, reaching a maximum of 80.4 % in Latvia. Croatia has also reported a high rate (64.5 %). Compared with 2010, the percentage of people reporting difficulties in facing unexpected expenses increased by more than 5 pp in Greece (6.2 pp), Romania (5.7 pp) and Italy (5.3 pp). At the same time it fell by more than 2 pp only in Slovakia(-2.4 pp) and Austria (-2.2 pp). Also Switzerland reported a large decrease (-2.6 pp).
The percentage of people reporting the second deprivation item ranged from 3 % or less in Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg to 29.0 % in Hungary, 31.2 % in Latvia and a maximum of 50.8 % in Bulgaria. Norway and Switzerland had also values lower than 3 %. Compared with 2010, the percentage of people reporting that they could not afford such a meal every second day increased by 7.6 pp in Bulgaria, 5.7 pp in Italy and 4.4 pp in Latvia. Notably in Italy, that rate has almost doubled compared to 2010 (12.4 % in 2011 as opposed to 6.7 % in 2010). At the same time it fell by more than 1 pp only in Austria (-1.5 pp) and Poland (-1.4 pp).
Severe material deprivation by household type
Single person households with dependent children are mostly classified as being severely materially-deprived
The rates of severe material deprivation are not uniformly distributed between the different household types. Table 1 shows how the rates of severe deprivation vary between different household types. Overall at the EU-27 level, the most severely materially-deprived persons lived in single person households with dependent children (18.4 %) followed by single female households (11.9 %) and by single male households (11.5 %) and households with two adults and three or more dependent children (11.2 %). On the other hand, persons living in households with elderly people (two adults, at least one aged 65 years or over) were overall the least affected (5.2 %) most probably due to the accumulation of durable goods during their working lives and more opportunities to save money. This is more or less the picture in most EU countries, although with some exceptions. In Greece, Italy and Romania, the percentage of the population that was found to be severely materially-deprived in single person households was similar to the percentage of those found in single person households with dependent children. In Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, households with two adults and one dependent child were the least affected ones by severely material deprivation, not those households with elderly people. In Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania particularly, the most affected were those households with two adults with three or more dependent children, while in Lithuania the most affected were single males. The same situation as in Lithuania holds for Croatia.
Severe material deprivation rate by citizenship
Foreign citizens mostly affected by severe material deprivation
Severe material deprivation affects foreign citizens to a greater extent than the citizens of the declaring country (Figure 5). This is evident in the majority of EU countries. The only exceptions are Slovakia and Malta, where deprivation rates for foreign citizens were reported to be by 0.7 and 1.7pp respectively lower than the respective rates for the citizens of the declaring country. However, Slovakia has expressed concerns about the reliability of these figures. On average, at the EU-27 level, severe deprivation rates were 3.8 pp higher in the population of foreign citizens (12 % compared to 8.2 % for citizens of the declaring country). This rate has actually remained stable between 2010 and 2011 for foreign citizens, while increased for citizens of the declaring country (from 7.5 % in 2010 to 8.2 % in 2011). The largest difference between foreigners and citizens of the declaring country in 2011 (31.4 pp) was reported by Greece, followed by Slovenia (12.6 pp), Belgium (12.4 pp), Portugal (12.1 pp) and Italy (11.0 pp).
Low work intensity
Work intensity is the ratio between the number of months that household members of working age (person aged 18-59 years, with the exclusion of dependent children in the age group between 18 and 24 years) worked during the income reference year and the total number of months that could theoretically have been worked by the same household members. For persons who declared that they worked part-time, the number of months worked in full time equivalent roles is estimated on the basis of the number of hours usually worked at the time of the interview.
People living in households with very low work intensity are defined as people of all ages (from 0-59 years) living in households where the members of working age worked less than 20 % of their total potential during the previous 12 months.
Following this definition, the proportion of people living in households with very low work intensity remained stable in 2011 as compared to 2010 and accounts for 10 % of the population. However this rate varies between Member States (Figure 6). On the one hand, less than 6 % of the target population was living in households with very low work intensity in Luxembourg and Cyprus. In Switzerland, rates were also relatively low (4.7 %). On the other hand, the indicator exceeded 12.0 % in Hungary, Spain, Lithuania and Belgium the latter reported the highest rate in 2011 (13.7 %). However, no data are still available for Ireland. In 2010, this rate reached 22.9 % in Ireland.
Although stable at EU level, the indicator rose by more than 2 pp in Greece (4.3 pp), Lithuania and Bulgaria (3.1 pp) and Spain (2.4 pp) while it decreased in the United Kingdom (-1.6 pp), France (-0.5 pp). It has also slightly decrease (less than 0.5 pp) in Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania and Malta. .
Very low work intensity is most common in single person households with dependent children and in single person households (25.6 % and 21.9 % respectively at EU level), while households with two adults and one dependent child reported the lowest rates (5.9 %) (Table 2). This is the overall pattern in the majority of countries. The only discrepancies worth mentioning are cases where rates in the population of single person households are greater by more than 10 pp than the rates of the population of single person households with dependent children (Slovakia, Romania and Lithuania as well as in Croatia). On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, Greece and Malta, very low work intensity rates for single households with dependent children are much higher than the rates for single households (18.9 pp, 18.7 pp and 18.0 pp respectively). By contrast, in Bulgaria, very low work intensity rates were higher in households that had two adults with three or more dependent children when compared with households of a single person with dependent children or with single person households.
At-risk-of poverty or social exclusion
Severe material deprivation and very low work intensity are two out of the three components of the Europe 2020 Poverty and Social exclusion indicator. The third component is being at-risk-of-poverty, the monetary element of poverty and social exclusion. People are considered to be at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion if they face at least one of the three risks – although 37.5 % of those at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion within the EU-27 faced a combination of two or even all three of these risks (Figure 7). In 2011, there were 48.7 million people in the EU-27 living in households that faced income poverty (but neither severe material deprivation, nor very low work intensity), 20.0 million persons experiencing severe material deprivation (but neither of the other two risks) and 13.4 million people living in households with very low work intensity (but facing neither of the other two risks). An additional 29.5 million people lived in households facing two out of three of these risks, while a further 8.0 million people lived in households where all three of these risks were present. In 2011, 375.5 million people faced none of the above-mentioned risks, as opposed to 377.8 million in 2010.
The evolution of poverty and social exclusion during 2010 - 2011
In 2011, there were 119.6 million people in the EU-27, equivalent to 24.2 % of the entire population, who lived in households facing poverty or social exclusion (Figure 7 and Figure 8). This is an increase of 0.6 pp (equivalent to approximately 3.3 million people) compared to 2010.
The latest developments between 2010 and 2011 show that the proportion of the population at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion fell in Romania, Portugal, Poland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Bulgaria. All of the remaining EU Member States reported an increase in the proportion of persons at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in 2011 as compared to 2010. The largest increases occurred in Italy (3.7 pp) and Greece (3.3 pp), followed by Latvia (2.0 pp) and Spain (1.5 pp).
In absolute terms, the figures for Italy and to a lesser extent Spain and Greece had the greatest upward impact on the number of persons considered to be at risk-of-poverty or social exclusion in the EU-27 in 2011. In particular, Italy reported an increase of 2.36 million in the number of persons at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion between 2010 and 2011, followed by Spain and Greece (increases of 696, 000 and 372, 000 respectively).
Data sources and availability
The data used in this section are primarily derived from micro-data from EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). The reference population is all private households and their current members residing in the territory of the Member State at the time of data collection; persons living in collective households and in institutions are generally excluded from the target population. The EU-27 aggregate is a population-weighted average of individual national figures.
At the European Council held on 17 June 2010, the Member states’ Heads of State and Government endorsed a new EU strategy for jobs and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, known as the Europe 2020 strategy. The strategy will help Europe to recover from the crisis and come out stronger, both internally and at the international level, by boosting competitiveness, productivity, growth potential, social cohesion and economic convergence.
The poverty issue is a milestone in the Europe 2020 strategy. One of the headline targets is "Reduction of poverty by aiming to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion" and "European platform against poverty" is one of the seven flagship initiatives. The eradication of poverty also remains a major challenge of sustainable development, and the social dimension is one of the pillars of the EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS).
This page describes two of the three components of the social inclusion headline indicator "People at risk of poverty or social exclusion" set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy. It also provides an overview of the composition of the headline indicators.
Further Eurostat information
- 23 % of EU citizens were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2010 - Statistics in Focus 9/2012
- Combating poverty and social exlusion. A statistical portrait of the European Union 2010
- Children were the age group at the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2011 - Statistics in Focus 4/2013
- Income and living conditions in Europe (2010)
- Living conditions in Europe (2002 – 2005) – statistical pocketbook
- Living standards falling in most Member States - Statistics in Focus 8/2013
- The Social Situation in the European Union 2009
- Living conditions and welfare (t_livcon), see:
- Living conditions and welfare (livcon), see:
- People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (ilc_pe)
- Main indicator - Europe 2020 target on poverty and social exclusion (ilc_peps)
- Intersections between sub-populations of Europe 2020 indicators on poverty and social exclusion (ilc_pees)
- Living conditions (ilc_lv)
- Health and labour conditions (ilc_lvhl)
- Material deprivation (ilc_md)
- Material deprivation by dimension (ilc_mddd)
- Economic strain (ilc_mdes)
- People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (ilc_pe)
Methodology / Metadata
- Income and living conditions (ESMS metadata file - ilc_esms)
- What can be learned from deprivation indicators in Europe?
- Measuring material deprivation in the EU
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Regulation 1177/2003 of 16 June 2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)
- Regulation 1553/2005 of 7 September 2005 amending Regulation 1177/2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)
- Regulation 1791/2006 of 20 November 2006 adapting certain Regulations and Decisions in the fields of ... statistics, ..., by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania
- Comparison of UK and EU at-risk-of-poverty rates 2005-2010
- Employment and Social Developments in Europe (2012)
- OECD statistics on measuring economic performance and social progress
- The social dimension of the EUROPE 2020 strategy - A report of the social protection committee (2011)