Half of refugee households at risk of poverty

Nearly 53 percent of refugee households have a low income, over six times the average in the Netherlands (8.2 percent). Among households with a Syrian or Eritrean main breadwinner, this share is even around 80 percent. At 33 percent, the poverty risk is lowest among Iranian refugee households. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released data on income.

From 2016 to 2017, the risk of poverty increased more rapidly among households from refugee countries than among other households. The increase was only seen in households with a Syrian background, which constitute the largest group of refugees. The group of Syrian households at risk of poverty grew from 10 thousand (76 percent) in 2016 to 18 thousand (79 percent) in 2017. There were relatively fewer households from other refugee countries with a lower income in 2017 compared to 2016. For example, the poverty risk among Eritrean households fell from 83 to 80 percent.

Most refugees who obtained a residence permit applied for income support. Combined with the large influx from Syria during the refugee crisis, the share of low-income households among first-generation migrants increased. The refugee crisis was predominantly an issue in 2015 and is therefore not reflected in the figures on long-term poverty. The risk of poverty is substantially lower among second-generation households with a main breadwinner of non-western origin than among the first generation. On average, the second generation are better educated and therefore enjoy better job opportunities.

(Long-term) low-income households
   Netherlands (%)Western country (%)Non-western country, 1st generation (%)Non-western country, 2nd generation (%)
At least 1 yr20114.89.223.816.3
At least 1 yr20125.510.628.618.9
At least 1 yr20136.111.731.720.7
At least 1 yr20145.811.130.420.3
At least 1 yr20155.710.328.519.6
At least 1 yr20165.49.727.918.4
At least 1 yr2017*5.69.928.418
At least 1 yr
At least 4 yrs20141.73.612.64.9
At least 4 yrs201524145.8
At least 4 yrs20162.
At least 4 yrs2017*
*provisional figures

Virtually all Syrian households at risk depend on income support

Of all Syrian households, 79 percent have an income below the low-income threshold. For the overwhelming majority - 95 percent - income support is the main source of income. This share is slightly higher among Eritrean households. The other low-income refugee households are usually dependent on income support as well. On the other hand, households from Iraq, Iran and especially Afghanistan relatively often have employment as their main source of income, even though their income is below the low-income threshold.

Among the four largest non-western origin groups as well, relatively many low-income households mainly depend on labour for their income. This is most prevalent among households of Turkish origin. Nevertheless, income support tends to be the predominant reason for low incomes among this group, as is the case for households with a Moroccan, Surinamese or Antillean background.

Of all non-western households, the risk of poverty is lowest among Surinamese households, with a share of 17 percent. Similar to Antillean households, there were slightly more low-income households in this group last year than in 2016. By contrast, the risk of poverty declined somewhat among households of Turkish or Moroccan descent.

Non-western low-income households, 2017*
 Labour (%)Unemployment or disability (%)Pension (%)Income support (%)
Former Netherlands Antilles3.81.53.615.5
Other western5.81.51.814.8
*provisional figures

Majority of Eastern European households at risk are in employment

Households of Polish, Romanian or Bulgarian origin are at above-average risk of poverty. Low-income households from these Eastern European countries generally have employment as their main income source. This holds true for Bulgarian low-income households in particular, although they represent a small group: just under 10 thousand households in the Netherlands are of Bulgarian origin. Households with a German, Belgian or British background are less likely to be at risk of poverty while mainly having income from employment. Migrant workers from Eastern Europe usually perform low-skilled work, while migrants from Western Europe are often (highly educated) knowledge workers.

Western low-income households, 2017*
 Labour (%)Unemployment or disability (%)Pension (%)Income support (%)
Other western4.
United Kingdom3.
*provisional figures