More poverty in 2009

  • Poverty has grown in the Netherlands in 2009;
  • After a long period of decline, the percentage of poor children has increased last year;
  • The risk of poverty is highest for single-parent families, social security recipients and under-65 singles. People from non-western countries and the new EU member states are also at risk of poverty;
  • Over the past decade, the risk of poverty has been stable in the working population, but the number of working poor has grown, in particular among self-employed;
  • Poor people often indicate to be in arrears with their payments and cannot afford hot meals or new clothes on a regular basis.

The above conclusions are based upon the Poverty Survey 2010, which is released today. Researchers from the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) provide an up-to-date picture of the number of poor people, the latest developments and the consequences of being poor in the Netherlands. The Poverty Survey 2010 is a follow-up publication of the Poverty Monitor and the Poverty Bulletin, a series of publications released by SCP and CBS since 1997. Poverty is measured predominantly by means of the Income Panel Survey conducted by Statistics Netherlands and largely based on tax data. The most recent (provisional) figures refer to the year 2009.

Poverty lines

In the report, various criteria are used to define poverty. The SCP introduces the not-much-but-sufficient criterion. The amount defining the poverty line is the sum of minimum expenses necessary for food, clothes, accommodation and social participation as proposed by the National Institute for Budget Information (Nibud). Statistics Netherlands applies the notion of the low-income limit, i.e. a fixed amount annually adjusted for price developments. Appendix 1 includes a table of poverty lines for the various types of households.

More poverty in 2009

According to the not-much-but-sufficient criterion (SCP) 971,000 persons in 453,000 households (6.2% of the Dutch population) lived on incomes below the criterion versus 5.5 percent in 2009. According to the low-income limit (CBS), 7.7% of the nearly 6.9 million Dutch households (i.e. 531 000 households including 1,090,000 persons) were at risk of being reduced to poverty. Last year, the share of households below the low-income limit was 0.2 percentage points higher than in 2008.

Long-term poverty offers diverse picture

Last year, 164,000 households (2.6 percent of all households in the Netherlands) had lived below the low-income limit for four years or longer; just as many as in 2008. On the basis of the not-much-but-sufficient criterion, long-term poverty increased from 2008 to 2009. The share of people living below the criterion for at least three years rose from 2.0 to 2.2%.

Growing proportion of poor children

The proportion of children living in poverty declined for a long period, but started to increase in 2009. This is consistent with the overall trend. Last year, 9.1% of 0 to 17-year-olds were living in households below the not-much-but-sufficient criterion (311,000 children) versus 8.1% in 2008. In spite of the increase, the poverty rate among children is lower than in 2000 (10.6%). The poverty rate among children also dropped in 2009 according to the low-income limit.

Groups at risk

Single-parent families with only underage children, social security recipients and under-65 singles are at greater risk of poverty. Last year, 27 % of single parent households, 65% of households receiving social security benefits and 17% of singles under the age of 65 were at greater risk of poverty. Another risk group concerns people from Eastern Europe. According to the not-much-but-sufficient criterion, 22% of persons from the former Soviet Union are poor, 15% of Poles and 20% of people from other new EU member states. Their risk of poverty is about the same as for people with a Turkish, Moroccan or other non-western background (18-22%).

More poor employed

The risk of employed people to be reduced to poverty has been fairly stable over the past decade: approximately 3% for people in employment and 12% for self-employed (not-much-but-sufficient criterion). In absolute terms, the number of working poor increased due to population growth and the higher employment participation rate. The number of poor people in households with their main source of income from labour grew from 434,000 to 576,000 over the period 2001-2009. The share of ‘working poor’ in the entire category of poor people has risen over the past decade from 50% to 59%. The increase was mainly due to a larger amount of self-employed.

More payment arrears and financial problems in poor households

Households living on incomes below the low-income limit more often reported to be in arrears with their payments than higher-income households (in 2009: 17% versus 4%). They also indicated they could not afford, for example, a hot meal with meat, fish or chicken every other day (11%). Nearly 40% did not have enough money to buy new clothes on a regular basis; 37% indicated to have (great) difficulty making both ends meet.

SCP-publicatie 2010/33, Armoedesignalement 2010. SCP/CBS, Den Haag: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau, ISBN 978 90 377 0458 7, prijs €16,50.

De publicatie is verkrijgbaar bij de (internet)boekhandel of te bestellen via de website:

Voor meer informatie:
dr. J.C. Vrooman (SCP), e-mail:, tel. 070-3407846.
drs. M.M.J. Vergeer (CBS), e-mail:, tel. 070-3374444.