Risk of poverty or social exclusion

The unemployed, single-parent families and tenants are the most vulnerable to poverty

The unemployed, single-parent families and tenants are the most vulnerable to poverty

Poverty indicators in Belgium in 2018 (EU-SILC)

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes today the new poverty figures for 2018 from the survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). The main findings are:

  • In Belgium, 16.4 % of the population was considered at risk of monetary poverty in 2018. These persons live in a household with a total disposable income lower than 1,187 euros per month for a single person. In 2017, this figure was 15.9 %, but the difference is not statistically significant. The other results also show no statistically significant differences.
  • This indicator of the risk of monetary poverty (16.4 %) is the highest ever obtained based on the SILC survey. When the survey was launched in 2004, this figure was 14.3 %.
  • 12.1 % of the population lives in a household with low work intensity, compared to 13.5 % in 2017.
  • 4.9 % of the Belgian population was facing severe material deprivation in 2018, compared to 5.1 % in 2017.
  • People who are confronted with at least one of the above situations are considered at risk of poverty or social exclusion according to the European poverty indicator of the Europe 2020 strategy. In 2018, this concerned 19.8 % of the population, compared to 20.3 % in 2017.
  • This indicator of the risk of poverty or social exclusion (19.8 %) is the lowest ever obtained based on the SILC survey. In 2005, this figure was 22.6 %.

Risk of poverty or social exclusion

  People at risk of monetary poverty (%) People living in households facing severe material deprivation (%) People (aged under 60) living in households with low work intensity (%) At risk of poverty or social exclusion (European indicator) (%)
Total 16.4% 4.9% 12.1% 19.8%
0-17 20.6% 7.0% 11.5% 23.2%
18-64 14.9% 5.2% 12.3% 19.3%
65 years and over 16.7% 1.7% - 17.6%
Employed 5.2% 1.6% 0.2% 6.2%
Unemployed 49.4% 17.5% 60.6% 63.1%
Retired / early retired 14.3% 1.7% 56.9% 16.2%
Other inactive people 34.4% 11.9% 33.5% 44.1%
Male 15.6% 4.5% 11.2% 18.8%
Female 17.2% 5.3% 13.1% 20.7%
One-person 23.8% 9.2% 27.7% 29.9%
2 adults < 65 without children 8.9% 3.5% 11.7% 14.6%
2 adults, at least 1 > 65 years, without children 15.7% 0.6% 32.7% 16.9%
Other households without children 4.5% 1.5% 6.3% 7.4%
Single parent with child(ren) 41.3% 16.8% 34.6% 50.5%
2 adults, 1 child 12,0% 2.5% 7.4% 13.7%
2 adults, 2 children 9.8% 3.4% 5.4% 10.8%
2 adults, 3 children or + 25,0% 5.5% 8.4% 27.2%
Other households with child(ren) 13.9% 5.8% 7.9% 15.9%

Purpose and brief description

"EU-SILC" (European Union - Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) is a European survey on income and living conditions and an important tool to map poverty and social exclusion at Belgian and European level.

In Belgium, the EU-SILC survey is organised by Statbel. Every year, about 6,000 households (or 11,000 people) are surveyed and followed up for a maximum of four consecutive years. In the SILC survey, social exclusion is regarded as the result of several factors such as income, employment, health and education level.


Private households

Data collection method and sample size

CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interview).


60% (N= ± 6000 households).



Timing publication

Prelimerary results (material deprivation and module) are available in January afther the reference period, final restults are available in June after the refernce period.


Calculation of the monetary poverty risk (AROP)

The poverty threshold is set at 60 % of the median disposable income at individual level. It is calculated as follows: 60 % of 22,784 euros per year equals to a threshold of 13,670 euros per year or 1,139 euros per month for a single person. For households, this threshold is not simply multiplied by the number of household members. Considering that household members share costs and expenditures, a factor of 0.5 is applied to a second adult in a household in the calculation of the poverty threshold, and a factor of only 0.3 is applied to children (<14 years). The poverty threshold for a household consisting of two adults and two children is therefore obtained by multiplying the threshold of single people by a factor of 2.1 [(€13,670 *2.1)/12 = €2,392 per month]. This factor of 2.1 is calculated by assigning a weight of 1 to the head of the household, of 0.5 to the second adult of the household and of 0.3 to each child.

Households with low work intensity (LWI)

These are the households where adults (aged 18 to 59, excluding students) have worked on average less than one fifth of the time during the reference year.

Material deprivation (SMD): details of the indicator

People considered as "severely materially deprived" are confronted with at least four of the nine following situations: they cannot afford to pay rent or utility bills, to keep their home adequately warm, to face unexpected expenses, to eat meat, fish or a protein equivalent every second day, to go on a one-week holiday away from home, to have a car, a washing machine, a colour TV or a telephone.

European poverty indicator: AROPE (At Risk of Poverty or Social Exclusion)

This indicator is derived from the three indicators mentioned above (AROP, LWI, SMD). If one or more of the conditions are met, i.e. if the household in which the person lives is characterised by low income and/or low work intensity and/or severe material deprivation, that person is considered at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion (multidimensional poverty).

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