Risk of poverty or social exclusion

More than 2.1 million Belgians at risk of poverty or social exclusion

More than 2.1 million Belgians at risk of poverty or social exclusion

2,150,000 Belgians, or 18.6% of the population, are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE). This is what emerged from the new poverty figures for 2023 published today by Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, based on the survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC).

People at risk of poverty or social exclusion are in at least one of these situations:

  • They have a disposable income lower than the poverty threshold, which is 1,450 euros per month for a single person (AROP) and 3,045 euros for a household with two adults and two children. In 2023, 12.3% of the population was at risk of monetary poverty.
  • They live in a household with low work intensity (LWI). This means that in their household, members of working age have worked less than 20% of their potential in the past 12 months. This was the case for 10.5% of the population.
  • They were in a situation of severe material and social deprivation (SMSD). They cannot afford certain goods, services or activities, even though these are considered necessary or desirable by most people to have an acceptable standard of living. In 2023, this was the case for 6.1% of the population.

Rising poverty threshold

The 2023 poverty threshold increased by 84 euros per month to 1,450 euros for single people. For a family with two adults and two children, it amounts to 3,045 euros. This sharp increase in the poverty threshold arises because the 2022 income were used to calculate it, a year marked by the energy crisis. Due to persistent inflation, the central index was exceeded five times, leading to an indexation of benefits and (public service) wages.

However, the sharp increase in the poverty threshold has not led to an increase in the monetary poverty risk, which is now 12.3% and was 13.2% in 2022. Compared to 2022, the situation has improved for vulnerable groups, e.g. low-skilled people (from 26.2% to 23.7%), single parents and their children (from 30.5% to 25.6%), tenants (from 29.1% to 26.3%) and over-65s (from 17.9% to 15.8%). Although the share of employed people at risk of monetary poverty is significantly smaller than that of the groups mentioned above, a notable increase is emerging in this group: from 3.6% in 2022 to 4.7% in 2023. The disposable income of employed people has increased less than that of unemployed, retired and inactive people. Public service wages and social benefits may have been automatically indexed several times in 2022, but private sector wages do not always follow the same pace. Specifically, by delaying wage indexation, a proportion of workers fell below the poverty threshold, which was pushed upwards by (among others) indexed benefits.

Regional differences in risks of poverty

Behind the national figures there are large regional differences. For each of the key indicators, the situation is the most precarious in the Brussels-Capital Region, and the least precarious in the Flemish Region. The Walloon Region is in between, but has higher poverty levels than the national level. Clear differences can also be seen at provincial level. The Flemish provinces do not differ very much from each other as regards monetary poverty, with the exception of Antwerp where higher levels are recorded. In Wallonia too, the differences are not very pronounced for monetary poverty, with only Walloon Brabant recording significantly lower levels.

Severe housing deprivation high in Brussels

At national level, 1.7% of the population was facing severe housing deprivation. A person is in this situation when the dwelling is overcrowded and has least 1 of the following problems: a) leaking roof, b) damp wall or floor, c) rotted woodwork, d) neither a bath/shower, nor an indoor flushing toilet, and e) too dark. This problem hardly occurs in Flanders (0.4%) and Wallonia (0.9%), but is almost entirely in Brussels (10.9%).



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. As a result of these changes, the results from 2019 onwards are not comparable with those of previous years.


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.

The survey is carried out in Belgium and in the other EU Member States and is coordinated by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In Belgium, the SILC is organised by Statbel.


Private households

Data collection method and sample size

CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interview) - CATI (Compter Assisted Telephone Interview).


± 60% (N= ± 6,500 households).



Timing publication

First quarter after survey year



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).

Level of education

The level of education is measured using a detailed questionnaire, and the people are then divided into three groups.

Low-skilled people are people who list lower secondary education as their highest level of education. Medium-skilled people  are people who obtained a diploma of higher secondary education but not of higher education. High-skilled people obtained a diploma of higher education.

More definitions...



EU-SILC 2004 to 2020 was implemented under a framework regulation, mandatory for all EU Member States: REGULATION (EC) No 1177/2003 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 16 June 2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)

From SILC 2021 onwards there is the REGULATION (EU) 2019/1700 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL. This framework regulation for integrated European Social Statistics (IESS) and the underlying implementing regulations for EU-SILC constitute the new legal framework. The development of the statistical infrastructure under IESS is supported by European grants.

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