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Poverty rises in times of Covid. The percentage of the population in a situation of severe material deficiency in 2020 – the year the pandemic started – at 7%, at 2014 levels, in the midst of the economic crisis, and almost double than in 2019, and also increased the number of people with difficulties making ends meet, assuming unforeseen expenses or going on vacation.

These are some of the main data from the Living Conditions Survey published this Thursday by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) with figures from 2020 and which also reflect a slight increase in the percentage of the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which went from 25.3% in 2019 to 26.4% in 2020.

Although most of the data correspond to the year 2019, the INE also asks about questions that describe the economic situation of 2020 and pthey allow to verify the effect of the pandemic in the economy of the homes.

Thus, 10% of the surveyed population stated that they will make ends meet with “great difficulty” in 2020, a percentage 2.2 points higher than that registered the previous year. In addition, 35.4% did not have the capacity to face unforeseen expenses – compared to 33.9% in 2019 – and 34.4% could not afford to go on vacation for at least one week – one point more.

The percentage of the population in a situation of severe material shortage in 2020 stood at 7%, compared to 4.7% the previous year and the main problems were related to delays in the payment of housing expenses (13.5% compared to 8.3% in 2019), difficulties in keeping the house at an adequate temperature (10.9% compared to 7.6 %) and not being able to afford a meal of meat, chicken or fish at least every other day (5.4%, compared to 3.8%).

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Item list

A person is considered to be in a situation of severe material deprivation if he or she lives in a home that cannot cope with four of the nine elements from a list that contains, in addition to those already mentioned, the impossibility of facing unforeseen expenses worth 750 euros, going on vacation for one week a year, having a car, telephone, television or washing machine.

Regarding the AROPE rate, which is built with the population at risk of poverty, with material deficiencies or with low intensity in employment, rose from 25.3 to 26.4%.

The risk of poverty went from 20.7 to 21%, while the percentage of people residing in households with low intensity in employment fell nine tenths, and stood at 9.9%.

The at-risk-of-poverty rate increased 4.3 points for those over 65 and 0.5 points for those under 16, while it decreased 0.9 points for the age group 16 to 64 years.


Regarding the importance of the level of training, 36% of the population with an educational level equivalent to primary education or less was at risk of poverty or exclusion, while this rate was reduced to 13.7% in the case of people with higher education.

49.1% of people in households formed by an adult with dependent children in charge was at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a percentage that rose to 54.7% in the case of the unemployed, 15% in the employed and 16.7% in the case of the retired.

The INE also publishes a module on debt and savings that reflects how four out of ten Spanish households saved money at the end of a normal month last year, while 7.3 percent needed to borrow money, a percentage that in the case of families formed by an adult with dependent children increases to 21.1 percent.

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The data indicate that 5.9% of households had delays in paying bills not related to housing such as telephone, education, health, etc. (It does not include mortgages or water, gas or heating costs) and in the case of households made up of foreigners, the delays affected two out of ten.

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