Almost a quarter of Estonians live at the risk of poverty

According to Statistics Estonia, the country’s official statistics agency, a whopping 22.8% of Estonia’s population lived at risk of poverty and 1.4% in absolute poverty in 2021; compared with 2020, the share of people living at risk of poverty rose 2.2% and the share of people living in absolute poverty fell 0.8%.

Anet Müürsoo, the head of population and social statistics department of Statistics Estonia, said that the at-risk-of-poverty rate reflected income inequality in a country.

“Close to 301,100 people lived at risk of poverty in 2021, which is nearly 30,300 people more than in 2020. Their monthly income, taking into account household composition, was less than €763,” Müürsoo said in a statement.

The at-risk-of-poverty rate was the highest in years and increased mainly among the elderly, while it decreased among families with children.

“Of people aged 65 and over living alone, 82.8% were at risk of poverty, up 4.7% from the year before. This is largely due to the size of the average old-age pension, which is below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold. We also see that almost one in three lone parents live at risk of poverty. Their incomes have not increased as fast as, for example, those of two-parent families,” Müürsoo added.

Nearly 18,000 people live in absolute poverty

The at-risk-of-poverty rate was highest in Ida-Viru (38.3%), Hiiu (31.6%) and Võru (31.2%) counties. It was lowest in Harju (18.1%), Järva (18.9%) and Tartu (20.9%) counties. The at-risk-of-poverty rate increased the most in Viljandi (7.7%), Ida-Viru (6.9%) and Hiiu (6.6%) counties. The biggest drop was recorded in Järva (3.8%), Valga (2.9%) and Pärnu (1.4%) counties.

Absolute poverty indicates the share of the population who are not able to meet their basic needs.

“In 2021, nearly 18,000 people lived in absolute poverty – 10,700 fewer than the year before. The monthly income of people living in absolute poverty, taking into account household composition, was less than €234,” noted Müürsoo.

The absolute poverty rate was highest among people aged under 65 living alone (5.5%) and lone parents (4.2%). By age group, absolute poverty was highest among 18–24-year-olds (2.6%).

Almost 100,000 people live in deprivation

In 2022, the share of people living in deprivation, ie people who cannot afford various items commonly available in the society, was slightly larger than in the previous year – 7% of Estonia’s population, or 92,100 people.

Deprivation affects people aged 65 and over the most (10.6%), while the least deprived are 18–24-year-olds (3.9%). In a year, deprivation increased the most for children and people aged 65 and over.

The estimations are based on the data of the 2022 Estonian Social Survey. The survey collects data about yearly income, which is why the 2022 survey asked respondents about the income in 2021. The yearly income is necessary for calculating the indicators of poverty and inequality. The social survey is conducted in all European Union countries based on a harmonised methodology.

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