- Intra-regional difference of people living at-risk-of-poverty can increase national tensions and a sense of social exclusion.
- These differences are largest in Turkey, Albania, Hungary, Germany, Croatia, Italy and Spain.
- The highest levels of population at risk of poverty tend to be observed in remote areas within each country. However, there are significant exceptions.
- Lower rates tend to be observed in the vicinity of capitals or larger urban areas, but not necessarily in the cities themselves.
Observations for policy
The economic and financial crisis led to an increase in poverty rates in Europe, with different impacts depending on the region considered. The rate of population in households living at risk of poverty indicates those areas which are most challenged by poverty. Reducing levels of population at risk of poverty contributes to inclusive growth, by improving access to the labour market, health care and education. Fighting poverty is essential to achieve a more cohesive European society.
The map illustrates regional differences within the European countries. The at-risk-of-poverty rates are illustrated as index compared to the national mean, which makes regions with extreme values within countries more visible. More remote areas and areas along national borders show in general higher rates at risk of poverty. Lower rates are more observed around the national capitals or larger urban areas, however not in the urban regions itself.
One of the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy under the objective of inclusive growth is to reduce the number of people living below national poverty lines. Achieving this target presupposes measures to empower people to find work, contribute to the modernisation of labour markets, invest in skills and training, fight poverty, reform social protection systems and build a cohesive society.
Income remains a major factor in opening or closing access to shared standards of life across Europe. The Europe 2020 strategy aims to harmonise these living standards. This is reflected in the Flagship Initiative ÔÇťEuropean platform against poverty and social exclusionÔÇŁ. The platform is based on five areas of action:
- Delivering actions across the whole policy spectrum such as labour market, minimum income support, health care and education.
- Better use of EU funds to support social inclusion. 20% of the European Social Fund (ESF) is earmarked for fighting poverty and social exclusion.
- Promoting robust evidence regarding social policies
- Working in partnership with civil society
- Enhanced policy coordination among EU countries
The economic and financial crisis illustrated the need for more inclusive growth to decrease the risk of poverty. As stated in the Sixth Cohesion Report, poverty and social exclusion have increased due to the crisis in many cities and more developed countries of the EU.
The map classifies the regions of each country based on deviations from the national mean proportion of persons at risk of poverty. Each country has a different distribution of household disposable income across its population. The poverty threshold upon the distribution of household income across its population ranges in the EU 28+4 from 20,362 EUR in Switzerland to 5,520 EUR in Greece. These different median income levels result in clear differences of regional population at risk of poverty; the index compared to the national mean reflects better extremes in intra-regional differences.
Countries with more equal regional levels of income and distribution of income can be distinguished from countries with more regional disparities. Large inter-regional differences in population at risk of poverty can be observed in the Turkey, Albania, Hungary, Germany, Croatia, Italy and Spain. The Nordic countries as well as the Netherlands, the Baltic States, Portugal and Greece show a more equal distribution of regional rates of population at risk of poverty.
Within countries, lower rates of population at risk of poverty can be observed in the vicinity of capitals and other large cities, but not necessarily in the cities themselves. Higher at-risk-of-poverty rates are observed in less accessible regions in a number of countries, for example, the Southern parts of Italy,, inner Spain, Eastern Germany, with the exception of the surroundings of Berlin and Eastern Hungary.
Concepts and methods
The ÔÇťat-risk-of-povertyÔÇŁ-indicator has been defined as an income below 60% of the national mean household disposable income. The disposable household income is equivalised. This means that social benefits such as state pensions or unemployment support are taken into account, and that the disposable income of an ÔÇťequivalent adultÔÇŁ is considered. Furthermore, housing costs as the most significant component of regional differences in the cost of living within countries were excluded from disposable income.
Poverty thresholds differ per country. From one perspective this could be justified by differences in cost of living, and by different expectations or perceptions of poverty. Nevertheless, it becomes problematic that such differences take place abruptly along national border. Furthermore, the indicator reflects both the regional level of income as well as its national distribution. In that sense the benchmark of the regional indicator is relevant. Therefore, the at-risk-of-poverty rate in this map is illustrated as an index compared to the national mean. The index reflects the degree of disparity between each region and the national mean. The index makes it possible to observe more extreme values within each country, both positive and negative.