One in five people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, NSO figures reveal

There are over 85,000 people in Malta and Gozo who earn less than €10,222 a year, placing them at a statistical risk of poverty

One in five people are at risk of falling into poverty or social exclusion, according to new figures published by the National Statistics Office (NSO).

The at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate (AROPE) stood at 20.3% last year, marking an increase of 0.4 percentage points above the 2020 rate.

According to the NSO report, this increase was seen across the majority of age groups. The highest increase was experienced by over-65s, who experience an almost 30% poverty risk rate.

This means that there are over 103,000 people in Malta and Gozo, including under-18s, who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

The AROPE concerns people who are either at risk of poverty or are severely materially or socially deprived, or living in households with low work intensity.

The at-risk-of-poverty rate (ARP), which is different to the AROPE, stood at 16.9% in 2021. The ARP threshold is defined as 60% of the median national equivalised income, and is estimated to be €10,222. Over 85,000 people, including under-18s and over-65s, fall below this threshold.

The NSO points out that the ARP rate for 2021 would increase by 19.3 percentage points to 36.2% if one excludes all social transfers, including pensions. “These results show the importance of social welfare in assisting the most vulnerable persons in society,” the report reads.

The ARP rate is highest in the Northern Harbour district, which includes Birkirkara, Gżira, Ħamrun, Msida, Pembroke, Pieta, Qormi, St Julian’s, San Ġwann, Santa Venera, Sliema, Swieqi and Ta’ Xbiex. Here, the ARP rate stands at 19.8%.

The Northern district holds the second-highest ARP rate at 19.1%, and includes Għargħur, Mellieħa, Mġarr, Mosta, Naxxar, and St Paul’s Bay.

The lowest ARP rates are seen in the South Eastern district, and in Gozo and Comino. Both districts have an ARP rate of 11.8% and 12.4% respectively.

The ARP rates for the Western and Southern Harbour districts are 14.1% and 17.6%.

The NSO report gives material and social deprivation indicators based on 13 items, including their ability to pay mortgage or rent payments, and the ability to face unexpected financial expenses.

During 2021, more people said they were struggling to pay off their mortgage or rent payments and said they found it difficult to keep their home adequately warm in winter.

Indeed, the figures suggest that over 168,000 of people cannot afford a week-long annual holiday away from home, while 33,000 people cannot afford a get-together with friends or family for a drink or meal at least once a month.

The material and social deprivation indicator for 2021 stood at 9.8%, while the severe material and social deprivation indicator stood at 5.4%.

Both indicators increased compared to the previous year, and have been following an upward trend since 2017.