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A fifth of UK pensioners at risk of poverty

A poverty league table has ranked the UK 10th-highest in the EU for the number of people at risk of poverty.

 

by Michelle McGagh on Jun 13, 2012 at 13:29

A fifth of UK pensioners at risk of poverty

More than a fifth of pensioners in the UK are at risk of poverty, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, which places the UK in the bottom half of its 'at risk of poverty' league table, alongside Romania and Greece.

In 2010, 17.1% of the UK population was defined as being at risk of poverty, equivalent to 10.7 million people. This was higher than the overall EU rate of 16.4%, which remained static between 2005 and 2010 while the UK rate fell 1.9%.

Despite the drop in the rate of poverty, which is a relative measure rather than an absolute marker of poverty, the number of those aged 65 and over living in fear of poverty is far above the EU average.

The at-risk rate for most age groups in the UK was broadly in line with the EU average, but in the UK 21.4% of people aged 65 and over were at risk of poverty, compared with 15.9% of over 65s across the EU.

Females were also more likely to be at-risk of poverty than males, across all ages.

The ONS figures set out a league table of poverty risk in each of the 27 EU countries. The Czech Republic has the lowest risk of poverty at 9% of the population, while Latvia has the highest risk of poverty at 21.3%. Britain is ranked 10th from the bottom with a rate of 17.1%.

At-risk of poverty rate by country

Country At-risk-of-poverty rate
EU Average 16.4%
Belgium 14.6%
Bulgaria 20.7%
Czech Republic 9.0%
Denmark 13.3%
Germany 15.6%
Estonia 15.8%
Ireland 16.1%
Greece 20.1%
Spain 20.7%
France 13.5%
Italy 18.2%
Cyprus 15.8%
Latvia

21.3%

Lithuania 20.2%
Luxembourg 14.5%
Hungary 12.3%
Malta 15.5%
Netherlands 10.3%
Austria 12.1%
Poland 17.6%
Portugal 17.9%
Romania 21.1%
Slovenia 12.7%
Slovakia 12.0%
Finland 13.1%
Sweden 12.9%
UK 17.1%

Mike Morrison, AXA Wealth head of pensions development, said the figures highlighted how low the current state pension was, although the poverty rate was relative.

‘We know that the state pension in the UK is relatively low, but when you put it into a league table like this it looks even worse, particularly as there will be a lot of EU countries that we would expect to see below us,’ he said.

‘I must stress that this is "relative" poverty as opposed to "absolute" poverty, and therefore will depend on the overall standard of living – the national average income – in the country concerned. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make for comfortable reading.’

Morrison urged the government to ensure the state pension, which will increase to a £140-per-week flat rate next year, continues to increase to prevent pensioner poverty.

‘State pension reform is on the coalition agenda, and although we have seen progress in the move to a £140 per week flat pension, care must be taken to make sure this is up to date when it comes into force. Additionally, it perhaps gives some weight to another issue currently challenging the coalition: the targeting of universal benefits and whether they should be removed from some more wealthy pensioners,’ Morrison said.

‘The issue for me would be to make sure that the saving is redistributed to those who need it most and that it is not another amount of money being taken out of the system.’

8 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Graham Barlow

Jun 13, 2012 at 15:04

The Government are working hard to get all Pensioners down to the same pauper level . Once we are all down there we will be allocated the same rations which will be issued from Tescos No savings will be allowed for the over 65s, and certainly all surpus assets will be systematically confiscated, and as for leaving anything for your Grand children forget it. This is the new form of aggressive Tax avoidance and will not be tolerated by HMRC who will be the final arbiter in any finacial dispute you have with them. This is the new great Society, George Orwell's 1984 revisited. If only I had such a wonderful perception of these new philosophies. I could have gone into Politics instead of working for a living.

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Lyn

Jun 13, 2012 at 17:08

Graham that's just how i feel.

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Rob Walker

Jun 13, 2012 at 17:59

So does any of us know what this article means by 'Relative' and 'absolute' poverty? - no. What does a basket of typical pensioner's groceries cost in, say, France compared to the UK ? (a lot more is the answer). And why are so many pensioners 'In fear' of poverty - well probably because the Financial Services industry stokes up these fears to sell their products.

And, finally, how can a percentage be 'At risk' of poverty. Risk, by it's nature may or may not happen. So maybe none of these people will actually experience poverty eh?

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Raymond Hurley

Jun 13, 2012 at 20:02

The term 'Relative Poverty' is nonsense.

In general terms,it is far better to to be in 'Relative Poverty' in the UK ,than have an average income in most countries of the world.

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xxxxx

Jun 13, 2012 at 22:02

‘State pension reform is on the coalition agenda, and although we have seen progress in the move to a £140 per week flat pension, care must be taken to make sure this is up to date when it comes into force. Additionally, it perhaps gives some weight to another issue currently challenging the coalition: the targeting of universal benefits and whether they should be removed from some more wealthy pensioners,’ Morrison said.

I take it from this comment that the Government is considering removing entitlement to the State Pension for "wealthy" pensioners. Hardly fair if someone has paid their NI contributions for 45 years for a State Pension. It will be interesting to see what the Government regards as wealthy. I suspect the figure will be very low to ensure that the State Pension is paid only to the poorest. So if you have been prudent and saved for a pension then it is likely you are going to be penalised.

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engineertony

Jun 13, 2012 at 22:55

Dig for victory, chickens in the back yard, patches on the seat of my pants, walking around the house with two jumpers and an overcoat, don't worry we're ready, we've been there before.We've forgotten how relaxing a bus journey can be, once the car's gone you don't miss it. Who needed a telly anyway.

The main thing is to look after the rich and privileged, you know how expensive a new roller is these days, and the mooring charges for yachts! Even 25% pa salary rises don't cover these rising costs.

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engineertony

Jun 13, 2012 at 22:55

Dig for victory, chickens in the back yard, patches on the seat of my pants, walking around the house with two jumpers and an overcoat, don't worry we're ready, we've been there before.We've forgotten how relaxing a bus journey can be, once the car's gone you don't miss it. Who needed a telly anyway.

The main thing is to look after the rich and privileged, you know how expensive a new roller is these days, and the mooring charges for yachts! Even 25% pa salary rises don't cover these rising costs.

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russ thomas

Jul 04, 2012 at 20:07

The article is mathematical nonsense. "Poverty" is by definition the poorest 20% - you could be receiving a million pound a week but if others were receiving two million you would be in poverty. If a country does very well, sells lots of exports, gathers loads more in taxes than it spends - it still has 20% poverty - nothing changes the lowest %.

What these %s do show is ... of those in poverty, how many are pensioners. Countries where the range of peoples incomes is quite narrow (Scandinavia, Netherlands, Czech and Slovak) inevitably from statistics spread the poverty about fairly equally over age groups - so would typically score a low % here.

Absolute poverty is what should concern us, all of us - basically what is the average state pensioner income compared with everyone elses income in each country. If our country pays a very low pension then much of the burden of financial support of the elderly has to be carried by their children - and fairly soon those children will become pensioners.

Of all the 40 developed countries in the world - 36 OECD members plus 4 BRICS additions- Ireland ranks worst for pensioner poverty - 40th. UK, not surprisingly is very close behind - 39th. Look it up on Wikipedia. Our little corner of Western Europe has the worst pension system on the planet.

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