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Elderly people and poverty: Current levels and changes since the crisis

Written by David Eatock,

Elderly people and poverty

© Alexander Raths / Fotolia

Measuring poverty is complex and a number of indicators are now used to try to give a comprehensive picture. A composite measure – ‘at risk of poverty or social exclusion’ (AROPE) – is used today to measure progress on the Europe 2020 anti-poverty target.

In general, poverty for those aged 65 or older (65+) in the European Union significantly reduced between 2007 and 2014, in contrast to increases in poverty for people aged under 65. Those aged 65+ now have a significantly lower rate of being AROPE than younger people (17.8% vs. 25.9% for the EU-28 in 2014). The same applies when looking only at rates of ‘severe material deprivation’ (a component of the AROPE measure, but one not affected by changes to incomes of people under 65). This shows improvements for those aged 65+ and worsening for under-65 year olds. Those aged 65+ are less at risk of severe material deprivation than younger people (6.2% vs 9.5%, EU-28, 2014).

These broad results mask differences between individual Member States, with varying age 65+ poverty levels and improvements seen. Some saw age 65+ poverty increase according to at least one indicator, but increases were generally small, from a low base and not associated with countries particularly hard hit by the crisis.

Women aged 65+ have consistently higher AROPE rates (and other poverty indicators) then men across the Member States, though the gap has narrowed somewhat. Women’s 65+ AROPE rates reflect their: lower pay and shorter and more interrupted working lives leading to lower pensions (38% lower on average in the European Union according to the Commission’s 2015 Pension Adequacy Report); longer lives (and retirements); and increased likelihood of being in a single-person household. People aged 75+ also have higher AROPE rates than those aged 65-74, though the gap has narrowed since 2007.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Elderly people and poverty‘ in PDF.

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