Risk of poverty or social exclusion

More than 4.5 million Belgians unable to save money

More than 4.5 million Belgians unable to save money

17 October– International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

In 2020, 4,622,000 Belgians were unable to save during a typical month. This corresponds to 40.8% of the population. 32.8% of Belgians could barely make ends meet with their monthly income, 6.1% had to use available savings and 1.9% had to borrow money. This is according to new results published by Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The figures come from the 2020 survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), in which more than 7,000 Belgian households were questioned about their indebtedness and standard of living.

Saving up is not something everyone can take for granted

In 2020, 59.2% of Belgians were able to save during a typical month. In Flanders, 68.1% were able to save. This figure drops to 50.4% in Brussels and 46.1% in Wallonia.

However, the picture is quite different when we look at the situation of the 18.9% of Belgians who are considered to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) and the others.

22.1% of Belgians at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) were able to save, while 60.9% just about managed to make ends meet, 10.9% even had to use savings and 6.1% had to borrow to make ends meet.

Of the fellow Belgians who were not at risk of poverty or social exclusion, 67.9% were able to save, 26.3% were just getting by, 4.9% needed savings, and another 0.9% had to borrow.

More than one in three households cannot survive long on savings

The Statbel survey also asked households about the hypothetical situation in which their household would have no income, and would therefore have to draw on their savings. 40.3% of Belgians are unable to continue living with to the same standard of living for more than three months. 21% can sustain the same standard of living between 3 and 6 months, 13.1% say they can continue for 6 to 12 months with their savings and another 25.7% can sustain the same standard of living for more than a year with savings.

Here, too, are regional differences: 57.6% and 55.6% of the inhabitants of Brussels and Wallonia respectively cannot rely on their savings for more than three months. In Flanders, this share is limited to 28.6%.

The margin is the least wide among Belgians who are unemployed, where 72.8% indicate that they will not be able to continue living with the same standard of living for more than three months. Among Belgians living in a single-parent family, the proportion is 70.6%, among renters it is 69.2% and among low-skilled people 52.5%.

Belgians who belong to the risk group for poverty or social exclusion clearly have less margin: 74.6% would not be able to continue with the same standard of living for three months, 11.3% would manage between 3 and 6 months, 5.3% between 6 and 12 months and 8.8% would be able to sustain the same standard of living for more than a year.

Of the population not in this risk group, still 32.2% would be able to bridge less than three months, 23.2% between 3 and 6 months, 14.9% between 6 and 12 months and 28.4% more than 12 months.

To consult all the results of this module : EU-SILC Module Indebtedness and standard of living 2020 (xlsx)


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.


Private households

Data collection method and sample size

CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interview) - Due to COVID-19 situation, temporary switch to CATI (Compter Assisted Telephone Interview).


60% (N= ± 6000 households).



Timing publication

Not specified (due to a major reform of the survey).



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).

More definitions...


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