Current Affairs Czech Republic has lowest poverty rate in EU, study suggests

19-01-2010 16:34 | Sarah Borufka

New data comparing poverty rates across the European Union puts the Czech Republic’s poverty rate at the very bottom of the statistic. Only nine percent of Czechs live at or below the poverty threshold, compared to the European average of 17 percent. But across the European Union, children are most at risk of living in poverty.

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Only nine percent of Czechs live at or below the poverty rate. New figures published on Monday by Eurostat, the statistics office of the European Commission, rated the Czech Republic favorably in terms of equal opportunities. Pascal Wolff is a spokesman for Eurostat.

“In the European Union in general, the poverty rate is at 17 percent, so there are 17 percent of people who have an average income that is below the poverty line. And the Czech Republic performs very well in this context, with the lowest poverty rate in the European Union, a figure of nine percent.”

At the top of the statistic is Latvia, where 25 percent of the population either live in poverty or are at risk. Only six percent of Czechs cannot afford to keep their home adequately warm, in Latvia, the figure is at 29 percent.

Chantal HughesChantal Hughes The data published by Eurostat does not refer to absolute poverty, however. Chantal Hughes is the spokeswoman for the European Commission‘s General Directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

“What we are talking about here is relative poverty, which is defined as being 60 percent of national median income. You divide the whole population into two, and you find that fifty percent of the people are above a certain income and 50 percent are below. That’s the median income. And the at-risk poverty rate is described as 60 percent of the national median income.”

The data shows that the chasm between rich and poor in the Czech Republic is much less dramatic than in other European Union member states, says Pascal Wolf.

“The low figure [of people at risk of poverty] in the Czech Republic means that there are relatively little inequalities in the distribution of income in the Czech Republic compared to other countries in Europe.”

One of the worrying aspects of the study that also applies to the Czech Republic is the overall higher rate of poverty among those aged 17 and younger. Chantal Hughes again.

“One of the key problems we see across the European Union is that children below the age of 17 are more affected by poverty than the overall population, and that is true of nearly all countries. The average poverty rate for this age group is 20 percent, as compared to 17 percent of the total population. The same thing is reflected in the Czech Republic, where the poverty rate is nine percent for the total population but 13 percent for children aged zero to seventeen. That, of course, is a real concern to us, because of the risks that being poor as a child has for your future prospects, in terms of your education, in terms of future income. So one of the things that we need to tackle first is definitely child poverty.”

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