Material and social deprivation: the EU endorses a new indicator developed by LISER

Since 2000, EU cooperation in the field of social policy has been organised around a set of key objectives. Progress towards these objectives is monitored using EU social indicators commonly agreed between the Commission and Member States. One such indicator is a measure of material deprivation endorsed in 2009 whose robustness needed to be strengthened. After several years of international comparative research, Guio, Gordon and Marlier (2012) and Guio et al (forthcoming) identified an optimal set of 13 material and social deprivation items which allow constructing a highly robust indicator. Six of these items were already included in the 2009 measure (which was based on 9 items) and seven are new.

As a result of this research, the seven new items proposed by Guio and her colleagues are now included in the core questionnaire of the EU reference data source for income and living conditions (EU-SILC). So, all 13 items are now collected every year in all EU countries and a number of non-EU countries. These items are as follows:

a) The inability for a household to:

  1. face unexpected expenses;
  2. afford a one week annual holiday away from home;
  3. avoid arrears (in mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase instalments);
  4. afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day;
  5. afford keeping the home adequately warm;
  6. have access to a car/van for personal use; and
  7. replace worn-out furniture.

b) The inability for a person to:

  1. replace worn-out clothes;
  2. have two pairs of properly fitting shoes;
  3. spend a small amount of money each week on him/herself;
  4. have regular leisure activities;
  5. get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least monthly;
  6. have an internet connection.

On 15 March 2017, the EU endorsed a material and social deprivation (MSD) indicator based on these 13 items.

The MSD rate is the proportion of people lacking at least five out of these 13 items. Figures show the large diversity of MSD in the EU, with percentages ranging from 2% in Sweden to 48% in Bulgaria (5% in Luxembourg).

Although income poverty and deprivation are closely linked, there are situations where (income) poor people manage to avoid deprivation thanks to the high general standard of living in the country, high in-kind social benefits and available savings. Conversely, there are situations where non-poor people suffer from deprivation due to low standards of living in that country, high personal costs (housing, education, mobility, health…) or accumulated debt. Both indicators are therefore useful to understand different aspects of poverty and social exclusion.


Guio, A.-C. (2009), What can be learned from deprivation indicators in Europe?, Eurostat Methodologies and Working Papers, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Guio, A.-C., Gordon, D. and Marlier, E. (2012), Measuring Material Deprivation in the EU: Indicators for the Whole Population and Child-Specific Indicators, Eurostat Methodologies and Working Papers, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Guio, A.-C., Gordon, D., Najera, H. and Pomati, M. (forthcoming), Revising the EU material deprivation variables, Eurostat Methodologies and Working Papers, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

— Posted on 17/05/2017
Photo: Patrick Galbats

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