Poverty statistics reflect population increase, Muscat says

National Statistics Office figures revealed this week that 78,685 people in Malta are currently at risk of poverty

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Though absolute figures show that 78,685 people are at risk of poverty, this sizeable demographic is a reflection of the increase in population, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said. 

Recent National Statistics Office figures showed that 78,685 people are at risk of poverty. Social solidarity minister Michael Falzon had commented that the number of people at risk of poverty had in fact fallen from 24.6% to 19% since 2013. 

READ ALSO: Minister hails drop in poverty for fifth consecutive year

Muscat's comments during a telephone interview with ONE Radio on Sunday corresponded with the minister's response to the statistics.

"One shouldn't be looking at the absolute statistic but at the rate at which poverty has decreased because the absolute figure is reflective of the increase in population," Muscat said.

The Maltese population at the end of 2018 stood at 493,559, an increase of 3.6% over the previous year.

"Contrary to the previous administration which said that poverty is simply a perception, this government acknowledges that it is a reality and we are fighting it everyday," Muscat said, adding that seven people were being taken off the poverty line every single day.

The NSO statistics revealed that the number of people living below the at-risk-of-poverty line grew by 0.01% over the previous year.

"The point is that the rate of people in poverty has decreased. The measures this government has taken have been successful.

"85% of Maltese families according to a Eurobarometer have said that the country's economy is a good one. By extension, this means that the Maltese standard of living has improved," Muscat said, adding that such a figure was higher than the EU average.

Previously, Michael Falzon had said that Malta was now being compared to a Scandinavian country rather than to countries going through economic crises as was the case in the past. 

He said that the country had gone from a situation were it was registering poverty levels above the European average to one that was now below average.

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