Updated | Poverty increased last year with largest share found in Northern Harbour region

Almost 18,000 people were classified as severely materially deprived in 2019, an increase of almost a percentage point • NSO statistics show poverty in all its forms increased

Poverty increased last year, according to the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey
Poverty increased last year, according to the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey

Updated at 3:35pm with Social Solidarity Ministry statement

Severe poverty increased for the first time in five years with almost 18,000 people falling within the category, figures out today show.

In 2019, the severe material deprivation rate was 3.6%, an increase of 0.6 percentage points over the previous year, according to the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) survey.

The survey results were released by the National Statistics Office.

The two most influential variables contributing to this increase were the inability of households to spend one week’s annual holiday away from home; and the inability of households to face unexpected financial expenses.

Severe material deprivation is based on a household’s inability to satisfy at least four variables from a list of nine.

But the figures also show that the at-risk-of-poverty rate also increased marginally last year to 17.1% (+0.3 points). This rate is based on an income threshold.

The number of persons living in households with income below €9,212, which was the at-risk-of-poverty line in 2019, stood at 82,758.

The overall poverty indicator, comprising both at-risk-of-poverty and social exclusion (AROPE), also increased by 1.1 percentage points when compared to EU-SILC 2018.

AROPE describes the share of persons who are either at-risk- of-poverty, severely materially deprived, or residing in a household with low work intensity.

The Northern Harbour district registered the highest rate of at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) persons, at 23.7%. The lowest AROPE rate was recorded in Gozo at 15.3%.

The statistics show that the average gross household income for 2018 (income statistics are based on the previous year’s incomes) was estimated at €34,627, while the average disposable household income was estimated at €28,505.

Social Solidarity Ministry compares figures to 2013

The Social Solidarity Ministry described the regression in the rate for severely materially deprived as “a small increase”, opting to focus on the positive increase in disposable income.

Despite the first deterioration in five years, the ministry insisted that since 2013 there were 24,700 fewer people in severe poverty.

It noted that there was a reduction in the number of families unable to meet their loan repayments and bills.

The ministry said the increase in disposable income led to a “marginal” increase in the at-risk-of-poverty rate, which refers to families with an income that is 60% of the average disposable income.

The ministry’s principle focus was on the higher disposable income, which reached €28,505, an increase of €13 per week over the previous year.

While the year-on-year results for poverty largely denoted regression, the ministry chose to compare them with 2013 to highlight the improvement since Labour came to power.

Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon said the results showed how government’s social and economic policies made a tangible difference in the lives of families.
“Tens of thousands were taken out of material deprivation, while dignity and new opportunities were afforded to many families, especially those who could go out and work,” Falzon said.

However, he insisted that more measures were needed to address the situations of those who do not work, mostly pensioners.

“This will continue being this administration’s priority,” he said.