Poverty is back up but extreme destitution is down

Poverty indicator shows that the number of materially deprived households increased last year but the number of severely materially deprived households dropped

Poverty was up last year but extreme poverty continued its downward trend
Poverty was up last year but extreme poverty continued its downward trend

Poverty was back on the rise last year after experiencing a downward trajectory since 2014, figures out today show.

There were 40,754 people who suffered material deprivation in 2018, making up 8.7% of the population. This represents an increase of 0.7 points over 2017, the National Statistics Office said.

This was the first increase in material deprivation in four years. The statistics were based on income figures for 2017 and form part of the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC).

However, the number of people living in severely materially deprived households dropped by 0.3 points, continuing its downward trajectory since 2014, albeit at a slower pace.

There are 14,246 people living in severely materially deprived households.

The index classifies people as materially deprived if they cannot afford at least three items on a list of nine. The list includes things such as an unexpected financial expense of €675 and whether a household can afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day.

A household is considered to be severely materially deprived if it cannot afford four items on the list.

The NSO noted that the number of households that could not afford an unexpected expense decreased, as did the number of households that could not afford to pay for one week’s annual holiday.

However, significantly, the number of households who fell into arrears on mortgage or rent payments, utility bills and loan payments increased from 6.5% in 2017 to 8.1% last year.

Government reaction

Reacting to the NSO findings, the Social Solidarity Ministry said the figures showed that poverty levels were half what they were in 2013, despite the increase in materially deprived households.

The ministry attributed the improvements over the past few years on social measures such as an increase in the minimum wage, the introduction of in-work benefits, the tapering of social benefits and annual increase in pensions and social benefits.

The ministry said the increase in the number of people who fell into arrears on rent and loan payments was a result of changes in the rental market caused by economic growth and the increase in foreign workers.

It said the government was working on a number of measures to address the issue of affordable housing.

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