Regional At-Risk-of-Poverty Rates, 2011


Observations for policy

The economic and financial crisis led to an increase in poverty rates in Europe. The rate of population in households living at risk of poverty indicates those areas which are most challenged by poverty. Lower levels of population at risk of poverty contribute to inclusive growth and harmonises the everyday lifestyles and the ability of people to have access to the labour market, health care and education across Europe. Fighting poverty contributes to a more cohesive European society.

The map illustrates regional income levels and distribution, by the national median disposable income. Differences in cost of living and perceptions of poverty between European countries are therewith evened out. The map illustrates the intra-regional disparities by country, with the largest regional differences in risks of poverty in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and Croatia.

The highest levels of population at risk of poverty are observed in those areas which also have been hit most by the economic crisis. The economic crisis increased the regional disparities within Europe.

Policy context

The Europe 2020 Strategy includes a target to reduce the number of people living below national poverty lines under the objective of inclusive growth. Inclusive growth aims at ensuring that social polices seek to empower people to find work, contribute to the modernisation of labour markets, invest in skills and training, fight poverty and reform social protection systems and build a cohesive society.

Income remains a major factor in ensuring that all European citizen benefit from minimum standards of living across Europe. The Europe 2020 strategy aims to harmonise these living standards. This is reflected in the Flagship Initiative of a “European platform against poverty and social exclusion”. The platform is based on five areas of action:

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.

Map interpretation

The map shows the proportion population living in households at risk of poverty. Threshold income levels used are calculated based on the median income in each country. Each country has a different distribution of household disposable income across its population and the poverty threshold in the EU 28+4 ranges from 20,362 EUR in Switzerland to 5,520 EUR in Greece.

High rates of poverty can be found in Southern Spain, Southern Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, while the lowest are generally found in Northern Italy, Austria, Southern Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland and Norway

Countries with more equal regional levels of income and distribution of income can be distinguished from countries with more regional disparities. Large intra-regional differences in population at risk of poverty can be found in Italy, Germany, the Turkey, Belgium, and Croatia. In these countries, both regions with an at-risk-of-poverty rate between 30 and 63.4% as well as with a rate lower than 9.9% can be found. Regions with higher risks of poverty are in general observed along national borders and in the domestic peripheral regions, whereas regions with lower risks can generally be found in capital regions like Prague, Ankara, or Budapest, and in densely populated and economically strong regions like in Northern Italy or the Netherlands, for example.

Concepts and methods

The “at risk of poverty”-indicator has been defined as an income below 60% of the national median equivalised 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 “equivalent adult” 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.

This map displays the percentage of population in households with less than 60% of the national median equivalised disposable income. At risk of poverty rates are thus shown by country, including different thresholds depending on the distribution of households disposable income across the population. On the one hand, this could be justified due to differences in costs of living and different expectations or perceptions of poverty. On the other hand, differences take place abruptly along national borders which can now not be distinguished.