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Risk of poverty and social exclusion on the rise among Europeans

One in five Europeans are at risk of living in poverty and not being able to maintain social and material needs, leading to further marginalization.

(CN) — A report released Thursday by the European Union’s statistics agency found that the number of Europeans at risk of living in poverty or being deprived of material goods and social connections grew slightly from 2020 to 2021. 

The Eurostat study measured that 95.4 million people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2021, which represents 21.7% of the overall population. In 2020, the agency found that 94.8 million– 21.6% of the population – shared the same risk.

Social exclusion refers to people being marginalized from society and unable to access their full rights and opportunities. For purposes of tracking poverty and social exclusion in the EU, Eurostat looks at three categories: those at risk of experiencing poverty, being materially deprived and living in a household with low work intensity. 

In 2021, a total of 73.7 million were at risk of poverty, 27 million were severely materially deprived and 29.3 million lived in a household with low work intensity. Millions of Europeans belonged to more than one category in the study. For instance, 12.3 million lived in a household with low work intensity and were at risk of poverty, 8.5 million were severely materially deprived and at risk of poverty, and 2 million lived in a household with low work intensity and were severely materially deprived. A total of 5.9 million Europeans were reported as at risk or experiencing all three categories.

For those who would be considered under a sole category, 46.9 million were at risk of poverty, 10.7 million were severely materially deprived and 9.1 million lived in a household with low work intensity.

Material deprivation is defined as a lack of seven out of the 13 deprivation items.

Seven of those 13 items are related to a household and include the household's capacity to cover housing costs and unexpected expenses, ability to afford meat and vegetables, ability to take a vacation outside of the home, access to a personal vehicle and the ability to replace worn-out furniture.

The other six items relate specifically to individual needs such as having an internet connection, the ability to afford clothing and shoes, having regular leisure activities, spending time with friends and family once a month and spending a small amount of money on oneself.

To track the number of Europeans living in a household with low work intensity, the agency looks at households in which a working adult spent less than or equal to 20% of their time working the previous year.

The risk of poverty or social exclusion varies among the EU's 27 member states. Romania had the highest percentage (34.4%) of its population at risk, with Bulgaria closely behind (31.7%). Despite having the highest populations at risk of poverty and social exclusion, both nations slightly improved from 2020.

The nations with the lowest shares of its population at risk include Czechia (10.7%) and Slovenia (13.2%).

Eurostat did not provide an analysis of the factors driving the current rise of poverty and social exclusion in the EU. However, the bloc has been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, rising inflation and increased costs for energy and goods due to the ongoing war in Ukraine

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