Growing up in poverty

Growing up in poverty

Figures revised on 19.09.2022

Due to a correction of one of our administrative databases regarding the incomes 2020, a revision of SILC 2021 is necessary.

In Belgium, one child out of seven (14.7%) lives in a household at risk of monetary poverty. Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, has examined what it means for children to “live below the poverty line”.

For a third of them (32%), this means not having new clothes, only second-hand clothes, and for 14% of them, not having at least two pairs of shoes.

For financial reasons, 8% of children living below the poverty line do not eat meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every day and 4% do not eat fruit and vegetables every day. Almost 10% do not have any age-appropriate books, 16% do not have any outdoor toys and 11% do not have appropriate toys.

Monetary poverty also affects the children’s social life and hinders their participation in age-appropriate activities. Thus, for a quarter of them (25%), the financial situation of their household prevents them from taking part in a leisure activity such as joining a sports club or youth movement, and for 13% of them from simply inviting friends over to play. Going on holidays one week per year is also financially impossible for almost 6 children out of 10 (57%).

Finally, among school-age children living in a household at risk of monetary poverty, 17% do not have a sufficiently spacious and quiet place to do their homework and study.

These figures come from the Survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) 2021, which asked more than 7,500 Belgian households about their income and living conditions. The EU-SILC survey looked specifically at material deprivation among children. Households with children under the age of 16 were asked specific questions about the possession of certain goods or participation in age-appropriate activities.

Children considered to be at risk of monetary poverty live in a household with a total disposable income below the poverty line, which is 2,715 euros for a household of 2 adults and 2 children under 14. The basis of the calculation is the poverty line for a single person that amounts to 1,293 euros per month.

In addition to the sole criterion of monetary poverty, it can be seen that children are more vulnerable to material deprivation when they are part of a single-parent family, have at least one parent of non-European origin or belong to a renter household.

14% of children from renter households do not have a suitable place to do their homework, compared to 1% of children from owner households.

There are also regional differences. Children are often more vulnerable in Brussels than in other regions. For example, 15% of children under the age of 16 living in Brussels are financially unable to afford new clothes, whereas this percentage is 11% in Wallonia and 6% in Flanders.


The impact of the COVID-19 restrictions can be seen in the answers to questions on various aspects of social life such as “being able to participate regularly in a leisure activity” and “having friends over to play or eat from time to time”. In 2021, a significant proportion of respondents indicated that children did not do it for reasons other than lack of financial resources.