Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion

This morning Eurostat published a news release with the 2011 update of the at-risk-of-poverty-or-social-exclusion statistics for children.  The figures come from this earlier short report. The data for Ireland is from 2010 and the headline figure for Ireland immediately stands out in this sentence from the release.

In 2011, the highest shares of those aged less than 18 who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion were registered in Bulgaria (52%), Romania (49%), Latvia (44%), Hungary (40%) and Ireland (38% in 2010), and the lowest in Sweden, Denmark and Finland (all 16%), followed by Slovenia (17%), the Netherlands (18%) and Austria (19%).

The next countries with rates lower than Ireland’s are Lithuania (33%), Italy (32%), Spain (31%), Greece (30%) and Poland (30%).  The EU average is 27%.

What is measured is persons who are in at least one of the following categories:

  • at risk of poverty (below 60% of median equivalised income after transfers), or
  • severely materially deprived (cannot afford four items from a list of nine), or
  • living in households with very-low work intensity (adults working less than 20% of work potential).

A release a couple of weeks ago from the CSO showed that the at-risk-of-poverty rate for those aged under 18 in Ireland was 18.6% in 2011.  The EU27 average for 2011 was 20.6%.  As shown above adding the other two categories (material deprivation and work intensity) gives a figure of 27% for the EU27 and 38% for Ireland.

It is a slight difficulty that a revision of the 2010 data for Ireland has meant a delay in the publication of the granular details.  The headline category places Ireland as the fifth-worst in the EU and understanding why that is the case is an important question.

18 replies on “Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion”

@Seamus Coffey

‘… understanding why that is the case is an important question.

Yes it is. These data also support Vincent Browne in his little spat with Dan O’Brien.

Class analysis anyone?

Understanding why that is the case is indeed an important question because generally technology and our productive capacity grow as time goes on.

Perhaps we should revisit the basics of economics. Specifically we should ask ‘Where does money come from?’, the answer being that money comes from bank loans and every euro is created with an even higher debt.

We could continue with ‘Why is there less money during a recession?’, the answer being that money is ‘deleted’ through loan repayments such that if we reduce our debts to banks we’re no better off.

Attempting to tackle poverty under this system when no-one is willing or able to take on more bank loans is indeed a challenge.

If we had a sensible system of money creation and little/no money destruction in the economy at least this man made part of the poverty problem would disappear.



Locate a Gini_coefficient within the Public Sector;

Does this ‘deal’ INCREASE or DECREASE such a Gini?

C’mon! Any math/stat heads out there with a gestalt sense of number?

You qualify! Your gut instinct?

So, if there were substantial numbers of people who were working more or less full-time, but for tax purposes declaring that they work an equivalent of 1 day per week, then the children of these people would be classified as at-risk? No?

Mrs B and I know three families where we believe the children are borderline malnourished. One of the children was recently quite ill and when eventually brought to hospital was diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency. Two of the children in one other family are continually ill and always look very pale.

All sets of parents are solidly middle class and there is no lack of money. The issue is that none of the parents have either an interest or a clue about food. The children are either given junk food or very little food at all to eat. In the family with the child with the vitamin deficiency there is money for after-school swimming lessons and rugby. All the children could simply do with regular nutritious home-cooked meals.

I’m not sure if this is terribly relevant as none of the families will ever appear in any poverty statistics. I think the reliance on junk food/ready meals and the elimination/avoidance of home cooking may be a particular Irish phenomenon though.

This week’s Economist has a list of long-term unemployment. Worst to best(still bad). Out of work for at least 12 months as a percentage of all unemployed.
Ireland (over 60% was less than 30% in 2007)
Germany (surprising)

Increasing problems for children is not surprising in these conditions. The increasing reliance on charities is also indicative of a distressed labour market and the resulting family distress.

@ Bunbury: “The issue is that none of the parents have either an interest or a clue about food.”

“All the children could simply do with regular nutritious home-cooked meals.”

Spot on! Its hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Now you know why Cathal Brugha Street College of Domestic Science was so necessary. If any of you have a copy of All in the Cooking (part I) – hang on to it!

Seamus, this Eurostat news release as it stands is not very helpful. Since it only provides information on what you could call the “union” approach to poverty (i.e. you are counted if you are in any one of the categories) it means that comparisons across countries are very difficult to interpret.

For example imagine two countries A and B. In A 10% of the population fall into each of the categories but it is a different 10% for each category, giving a total rate of poverty/exclusion of 30%. In country B it is the same 10% who experience all three categories of poverty/social exclusion, and using the metric here, the rate of poverty/social exclusion is only 10%.

The total number of deprivations is the same in A and B, yet measured poverty is three times higher in A. Another way to put it is that the breadth of poverty is higher in A but the depth is greater in B. The example I have given is extreme, but without knowing the within-country correlation across the three different measures of poverty/exclusion, cross-country comparisons are pretty meaningless. Eurostat should also give the “intersection” measure as well.

My understanding is that SILC 2011 and the revised SILC 2010 will be with ISSDA this week.

@ David,

I agree and hope that people will look under the headline figure to try and figure out exactly what is going on. There is an EU-level graph that shows the intersection measure here (it is for the full population)

Number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion – EU27

I am not aware of any country-level analysis showing the same detail. Eurostat tend the publish summary statistics in a manner compatible with the Europe 2020 targets. The CSO give a slightly different focus in their releases and it would be useful if they gave more Ireland-specific detail on the general figures published by Eurostat.

As discussed above it is not the at-risk-of-poverty measure that puts Ireland into the “worst in class” grouping in this particular release. The rate of severe material deprivation in Ireland is not unusually high either. The factor with the biggest impact seems to be work intensity.

Here is another graph from Eurostat, this time covering the proportion of the population aged under 60 living in households where the working-age adults (excluding students) have a very low work intensity.

People aged less than 60 living in households with very low work intensity

@Seamus, David

That graph is quite interesting – the contrast with Greece and Spain especially. Any ideas why?


+1. I’m often shocked by the basic lack of knowledge around what was called “home economics”. I found myself wondering yesterday if nationwide courses in nutrition and food shopping is necessary. Food prices and income levels are a problem, but a bigger one is that many people don’t know how to shop or what kind of food to buy.


Is there a case to be made that low work intensity should not be an indicator for at-risk? The poorest people I know are the working poor. Are we convinced the link between lack of work and lack of cash to buy basics is so strong as to justify its significant impact of the index?

@ Sarah: “… if nationwide courses in nutrition and food shopping is necessary. ”

Yes and yes! TV is useful, but nothing beats ‘hands on’ in a kitchen. You need to start with kids who are capable of working safely in a kitchen – with adult supervision. They learn very fast.

Poverty defined as….? “Social exclusion” defined as….?

One minute THE CHILDREN are suffering, the next they’re stuffing their faces with junk food and obesity is the major issue.

What is this nonsense? The following is completely arbitrary and has nothing to do with the poverty of people living in say, Somalia.

“At risk of poverty (below 60% of median equivalised income after transfers), or
severely materially deprived (cannot afford four items from a list of nine), or
living in households with very-low work intensity (adults working less than 20% of work potential).”

Who gets to define poverty?! The very people who empower themselves to solve it (using other people’s money, of course). Oops, I guess I’m some sort of heartless fascist. Yeah, that must be it.

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