221 thousand children at risk of poverty, lowest number in 25 years

Two obese young women
© Frank Muller/Hollandse Hoogte
Last year, 221 thousand minors in the Netherlands were living in low-income households, the lowest number in 25 years. This is equivalent to 6.9 percent of all children, an average of 2 per school class. The families of over 95 thousand children had had to live on a low income for four years or more. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports these figures in its 2021 report on poverty and social exclusion.

In 2013, a total of 331 thousand children were at risk of poverty. This number then declined each year. The percentage of children living in households with a low income for at least four years has been falling since 2016.

Minors at (long-term) risk of poverty
 At risk of poverty (% )At long-term risk of poverty (% )
* Provisional figures

Poverty risk more than halved in 25 years

Two and a half decades ago, more than 17 percent of children were at risk of poverty, which comes down to nearly 5 children per school class. This number started to decline in the late 1990s. The at-risk-of-poverty rate stagnated at the start of the economic crisis in 2008, before rising to nearly 10 percent in 2013.

Just before the turn of the century, the share of minors at long-term risk of poverty stood at around 7.5 percent, more than twice as high as in 2020.

Relatively many children in single-parent families at risk of poverty

Nearly 86 thousand minors in single-parent families and over 116 thousand in two-parent families were at risk of poverty in 2020. This is equivalent to 20 and 5 percent, respectively. Single-parent families have only one breadwinner. They are also more likely to be dependent on income support.

Children of refugees at high risk of poverty

Children from households with a migration background face a greater risk of poverty than children without a migration background. Especially children from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia were at high risk of poverty (50 to over 60 percent). The majority of refugees from these countries who have a residence permit are dependent on income support and usually live below the low-income threshold. Of those with a western migration background, Bulgarian children stood out. The at-risk-of-poverty rate in this group amounted to nearly 20 percent last year.

Minors at (long-term) risk of poverty by migration background, 2020*
 At risk of poverty (% )At long-term risk of poverty (% )
United Kingdom4.31.3
Other western8.23.3
Other non-western20.311.1
* Provisional figures

Children at risk of poverty more often unhealthy and overweight

Of the children from low-income families, 10 percent said they were not in good health, against 5 percent of children from households with an income above the low-income threshold. The share of overweight children in the low-income group was over twice as high as in the group with a higher income. However, children living in low-income families do not have a lower score with respect to all unhealthy lifestyles. For example, the percentage complying with the physical activity guidelines does not differ between children with or without a risk at poverty. There was also no difference in the share of 12 to 17-year-olds who smoke daily. The group of teenagers without a poverty risk were relatively more likely to drink alcohol than those from low-income households.

Minors at (long-term) risk of poverty by lifestyle, 2018/2020
 At risk of poverty (% )Not at risk of poverty (% )
Daily smoking 1)4.52.5
Alcohol consumption 1)12.733.2
Overweight 2)24.711.9
Compliance with physical activity guidelines 2)45.449.9
Source: CBS, National Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor (CBS in collaboration with RIVM and Trimbos) and income statistics.
1)12 to 17 yrs 2)4 to 17 yrs

Two-thirds do not get a week’s holiday each year

Low-income families are often faced with financial constraints. For example, 66 percent of low-income families with minor children indicated last year that they are unable to take a one-week holiday every year. This applied to 9 percent of families not at risk. Low-income families are also more likely to say that there is not enough money to heat the house properly or buy new clothes regularly. Furthermore, 30 percent do not have a car due to insufficient financial means and 14 percent do not have a computer, laptop or tablet. Families with an income above the low-income threshold rarely have these constraints.