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Metadata: Population below the poverty threshold


European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), Statbel & Eurostat, processed by Statistics Flanders


The population below the poverty threshold represents the proportion and number of people living in a household with a standardised net disposable household income below the Belgian poverty threshold, after social transfers (social security and welfare benefits), in the year prior to the survey.

The poverty threshold is equal to 60% of the national median disposable household income after social transfers (social security and social assistance benefits). This poverty threshold is adjusted to the composition and size of the household. According to the EU-SILC survey of 2022, the Belgian poverty threshold for a single person was 1,366 euro per month, for a family with 2 adults and 2 children it was 2,868 euro per month. It is assumed that households with an income below the poverty threshold run an increased risk of poverty.

Household income: the disposable household income consists of all income of the household members derived from economic activity, assets, property ownership and from social transfers (social security and welfare benefits).

To be able to compare the incomes of households of different sizes and composition, the total household income is standardised. This is done by dividing the total household income by the Eurostat equivalence factor. The first household member has a weight of 1. For each additional person aged 14 and over in the household, this factor is increased by 0.5, and for each child aged under 14 by 0.3.

The years in the figure refer to the years in which the survey is conducted. The poverty risk is always calculated on the basis of the total disposable annual income of the household in the year preceding the survey.

Educational attainment level:

  • low educated: people without a degree or at most a lower secondary education degree
  • medium educated: persons with at most a degree of upper secondary education or with a degree of post-secondary non-higher education
  • highly educated: persons with a degree of higher or university education.

Remarks on quality

The data on the share of persons below the poverty threshold are estimates based on a survey. This is the EU-SILC survey on income and living conditions, the aim of which is to produce comparable statistics within the European Union for, among other things, poverty and social exclusion.

The implementation of the EU-SILC survey has since 2004 been made compulsory for all countries by means of a European regulation. EU-SILC is coordinated by the European statistical office Eurostat and implemented for Belgium by the Belgian statistical office Statbel. It is a survey of a sample of private households taken from the National Register, during which the reference person of the household (head of household) and each household member aged 16 years and over are interviewed. Since 2004, EU-SILC has been developed as a 4-year rotating panel. This means that households participate in the sample for several years and each year a proportion of households is replaced by a new sample of households. Until EU-SILC 2018, this was a 4-year rotating panel: households participated in the survey for 4 consecutive years. In 2019 a start was made by expanding the panel to 6 years. A new group was added to the panel, while no group left the panel. So at EU-SILC 2019 there were 5 participating groups. In 2020 this was done again so that a 6-year panel was realised.

The response rate of the EU-SILC survey in Belgium is about 60%. In the Flemish Region, data are collected via the household and individual questionnaire for some 7,000 people.

A margin of uncertainty must be taken into account when interpreting the results of the EU-SILC survey. The smaller the sample on which the figures are calculated, the greater the margin of uncertainty. The margins of uncertainty shown in the figure have been calculated by Statbel. An estimate based on the margins of uncertainty in the other years is used for the years for which Statbel’s margins of uncertainty are not available (2004 and 2005).

In addition, certain vulnerable population groups (such as persons in collective households, persons without legal residence permits or the homeless) are not or hardly represented in the survey.

In 2019, the EU-SILC survey was radically renewed. In terms of content, the switch was made in 2019 to the use of administrative data for the majority of the income variables. As a result, the survey questionnaire was fundamentally revised. Questions were reformulated and/or moved, new questions were added and certain questions were deleted.

Methodologically, the full model for the correction of non-response, panel member dropout and calibration was revised. From now on, administrative variables (more specifically the fiscal income of households) will be taken into account when calculating weights. This methodological reform increases the accuracy of the estimates. Due to all these changes, caution is advised when making comparisons between the results of the EU-SILC survey from 2019 with the results of previous years.

Finally, it should be noted that from March 2020 the COVID pandemic had a clear impact on the data collection of the 2020 and 2021 EU-SILC survey. Due to the lockdown measures, the fieldwork was temporarily interrupted and some of the interviews were conducted via the phone instead of face-to-face. In 2021 all interviews were conducted via the phone. In general, the exceptional circumstances allowed some households to be reached more easily than in other years, other households just more difficult. This caused a certain bias in the sample obtained, which means that caution is advised when comparing the results of 2020 and 2021 with those of 2019.