One in five people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion

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In 2020, there were 96.5 million people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion, representing 21.9% of the population, according to Eurostat data..

In 2020, there were 75.3 million people at risk of poverty in the EU, 27.6 million were severely materially and socially deprived, and 27.1 million lived in a household with low work intensity. Among the 96.5 million inhabitants within the EU that faced the risk of poverty or social exclusion, some 5.9 million (1.3% of the total population) lived in households experiencing simultaneously all three poverty and social exclusion risks (risk of poverty, severely materially and socially deprived and living in a household with very low work).

The risk of poverty or social exclusion varies considerably between the EU Member States, but also within individual Member States. For example, in some Member States — predominantly in the Baltic Member States, eastern or southern parts of the EU — the risk of poverty or social exclusion was higher in rural areas than it was in urban areas (cities or towns and suburbs), whereas in many western Member States poverty or social exclusion was more common in cities.

More than a quarter of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in four Member States with available 2020 data: Romania (35.8%), Bulgaria (33.6%), Greece (27.5%) and Spain (27.0%). In contrast, the lowest shares of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion were recorded in Czechia (11.5%), Slovakia (13.8%), Slovenia (14.3%), the Netherlands (15.8%) and Finland (15.9%). The rate in Malta was two percentage points below the EU average, at 19.9%.

When analysed by sex, the risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was higher for women in 2020 than it was for men (22.9 % compared with 20.9 %).

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 2020 in the EU was recorded for young adults aged 18-24 years (27.8 %), while the lowest risk was recorded for people aged 25-49 years (20.0 %). Between these two age groups, the risk of poverty or social exclusion was 20.4 % for people aged 65 years and over and 22.2 % among the population aged 50-64 years. The youngest age group, persons aged less than 18 years, also had a relatively high risk (24.2 %).

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

In 2020, almost one third (34.7 %) 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 10.5 % 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 19.9 %.

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

In the EU, over two thirds (66.2 %) of the unemployed aged 18 years and over were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2020. Inactive persons (other than in retirement) faced the second-highest risk on the basis of an analysis by activity status, with 42.9 % at risk. For comparison, the share of people in retirement who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion was 19.2 % and the share of employed persons was 11.8 %.

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