Misrepresenting ‘at-risk-of-poverty’ statistics
This post was written by Seamus Coffey
Writing in today’s Irish Times Vincent Browne says:
On Monday last, Eurostat published its latest report on poverty and social exclusion. It showed that for the EU as a whole the at-risk-of-poverty rate was 24 per cent, but for Ireland, it was almost 30 per cent. Only three other countries in the EU 27 had a higher at-risk-of-poverty rate: Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.
This is the 2011 Eurostat press release on social exclusion and at-risk-of-poverty rates. The first thing to note is that is contains no figure on the at risk-of-poverty rate in Ireland for any year. It does contain 2010 data that gives the sum of the following three measures for each country.
- Persons at-risk-of-poverty after social transfers
- Persons severely materially deprived
- Persons aged 0-59 living in households with very low work intensity
From the report there is no way of knowing how much of the 29.9% figure for Ireland (the joint fourth highest in the EU) is attributable to each category.
We have 2010 data on the at-risk-of-poverty rate. The table from page 77 of the CSO’s 2010 EU-SILC publication released in March of this year is below the fold.
The three average figures provided for the at-risk-of-poverty rates in 2010 are:
- EU-27: 16.4%
- EU-15: 16.2%
- Eurozone: 16.1%
The 2010 figure for Ireland is 16.1%. This is lower than the EU27 and EU15 averages and equal to the Eurozone average. Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom all had a higher at-risk-of-poverty rates than Ireland.
In the same table it can also be seen that Ireland has the second-highest at-risk-of-poverty rate excluding all social transfers, well above all the EU averages. The distribution of cash benefits improves Ireland’s ranking from 26th in the EU27 to 16th, with an at-risk-of-poverty rate below the EU27 average.
In 2010, the at risk-of-poverty rate in Ireland for people aged under 60 in households with very low work intensity was 38.8%. The EU27 average was 56.9%. Ireland’s at-risk-of-poverty rate for households with very low work intensity was the second lowest in the EU. Only the Netherlands at 36.7% had a lower rate in this category. A table of these figures taken from Eurostat is also below the fold.
In 2010, the percentage of people aged under 60 living in households with very low work intensity was 22.8%. the EU27 average was 10.0%. Ireland’s rate on this measure was the highest in the EU, by a distance. The next highest rate was in the UK at 13.1%. These are also provided in the second table below.
Conclusion for 2010: Ireland has lots of people who live in households with very low work intensity. Just over a third of these are at-risk-of-poverty, compared to nearly 60% in the EU. Ireland’s at risk-of-poverty rate is below the EU27 average.
The 30% figure cited in today’s Irish Times is because Ireland has an very high number of households with low work intensity, not because Ireland has a high at-risk-of-poverty rate. Ireland’s cash benefits system does more for people living in households with low work intensity than almost any EU country. It is a pity the readers of the paper won’t know this.
Here are the overall at-risk-of poverty rates for 2010.
Here is a table which gives the proportion of people in household with low-work intensity and the proportion of those people who are at risk-of-poverty (below 60% of median equivalised income). Figures relate to the population aged under 60.