Material and social deprivation: a new indicator to measure poverty

 Material and social deprivation:  a new indicator to measure poverty

In 2019, 11 % of the Belgian population were faced with a situation of material and social deprivation, according to the new figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office. The results come from the EU-SILC survey 2019, which used the new material and social deprivation indicator (MSD)1 developed at European level.

These results are the first available indicators of poverty in Belgium (SILC survey 2019) and will be complemented with monetary indicators in the coming months. Due to a thorough methodological reform, the results are now available at regional level.

  • There are marked differences among the three regions: 21.5 % of the inhabitants of Brussels were in this precarious situation, compared to 15.3 % in Wallonia and 6.6 % in Flanders.
  • About a quarter of Belgians could not afford a week's holiday away from home in 2019 or were financially unable to face an unexpected expense.
  • Single parents and their children (30.2 %) experienced much more difficulties than all the other categories.

Material and social deprivation - 2019

Share of the population materially and socially deprived - 2019 %
Belgium 11,0%
Brussels-Capital Region 21,5%
Flemish Region 6,6%
Walloon Region 15,3%
Men 10,6%
Women 11,3%
0-17 13,1%
18-24 8,0%
25-49 11,5%
50-64 12,6%
65+ 7,0%
Single parents, at least 1 dependent child 30,2%
2 adults, at least 1 dependent child 8,2%
2 adults, at least 1 over 65 4,9%
2 adults, both < 65 8,7%
Singles 18,5%
Other 7,5%


In order to meet European requirements, the SILC survey was thoroughly reformed in 2019. This reform makes it possible to calculate the results more accurately. The questionnaire can also be shortened so that the burden on the participating households is substantially reduced. As a result of these changes, the results from 2019 onwards are not comparable with those of previous years. Technical note - 2019 SILC reform

At the same time, a correction of the weight calculation was made to the previously published results of SILC 2016, SILC 2017 and SILC 2018. Our statisticians drew up an overview of the impact of this correction: Technical note - review

1 The material and social deprivation indicator (MSD) will eventually replace the severe material deprivation indicator (SMD) previously used. The latter indicator contains nine items, six of which are still in the new MSD indicator.