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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
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
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.’
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