Oct. 31, 2008 The rate of poverty varies between 10% and 23% in the countries of the European Union. Low levels of poverty characterize the Scandinavian countries, the so-called Corporatist countries (Austria, Germany), and the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia among the ex-Socialist countries.
In contrast, the risk of poverty tends to be relatively high in the Mediterranean and the Baltic states. Altogether around 75 million people in the EU are „at risk of poverty“. Countries with the highest poor population include France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK.
Is there an age bias in social support? Is there a trade-off between the poverty rates of the young and the old? Poverty at old age is an issue in the majority of the countries examined here. The elderly face much higher poverty rates than children in Norway, Finland, Denmark and Cyprus. Cyprus as a clear outlier, with over half of the population aged 65 or over at risk of poverty. On the other hand, in 10 of the 26 countries studied here, children are exposed to a higher risk of poverty than the elderly. In Poland and Hungary in particular, children are around three times more likely to be poor than the elderly. There is no sign of an age bias in another group of countries, including the Baltic states, the Mediterranean countries, and the UK, where poverty rates among the young and the old appear to be above the average.
Regional disparity in terms of poverty is rather wide across those 11 countries for which such data is available. In Greece, Italy and Spain the difference between lowest and highest regional poverty rates is 3.5-4 fold. These are also countries where the national poverty rates are high in a European comparison.
The divergence of absolute poverty is much greater across countries than that of relative poverty. We calculated two different thresholds with values of 5 Euros/day and 10 Euros/day, adjusted with the purchasing power parities. We find that the Baltic States suffer from the highest rates of absolute poverty within the European Union, together with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
There are two main risks related to the household structure: (greater) number of children, and perhaps less intuitively, living in a one-adult household, including both those with dependent child(ren) and those without. Poverty among one person households reaches over 40% in Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia and Slovenia. The poverty rate of single parents reaches or surpasses 30% in the majority of the 26 countries examined here.
The Lisbon Agenda of the European Union equally promotes “more and better jobs” and greater social cohesion. We present evidence that those countries which are “top performers” and have the highest levels of employment in the EU, tend to have low poverty levels as well, including Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden. The malaise of high poverty is coupled with low employment in some Mediterranean countries: Greece, Italy, and Spain.
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The above story is based on materials provided by European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research.
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