Last year 1,798,000 Belgians – 15% of the population – lived in a family whose income was below the poverty line, according to the 2018 Poverty and Social Exclusion Yearbook just published by the University of Antwerp. This phenomenon increasingly affects households in which no one works, the report noted.
Although the poverty risk has remained stable, various indicators point to a deterioration of the poverty situation. The monthly average number of beneficiaries of social allowances has soared by 74% in 10 years, jumping from 80,485 to 140,150. This increasing uncertainty involves mainly high-risk groups such as unskilled persons, people of foreign origin and single-parent families.
Between 2008 and 2017, the poverty risk went down by 5.3% among people over the age of 65 years, going from 21.3% to 16%. “This is due in part to increases in the lowest pensions, but it is also a result of demographic shifts,” explains Jill Coene of Antwerp University, which supports the annual publication together with other Flemish anti-poverty associations. “More women have joined the labour market and have a right to a pension.”
Last year, 13.5% of Belgians lived in families with very low rates of employment, i.e. their members hardly worked or did not work at all. In Europe only Greece and Ireland have worse scores in this area. Moreover, the situation has deteriorated significantly in the past few years: in fact, the poverty risk in this group increased from 54.7% in 2008 to 70.4% in 2017.