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Living Conditions Surveys (ULF/SILC) 2019

Rate of material and social deprivation lower in Sweden than in most other countries in Europe

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2020-10-14 9.30

In Sweden, the rate of material and social deprivation is 4 procent, according to the EU definition. A higher proportion of persons with compulsory education live in material and social deprivation compared with persons with post-secondary education; 7 percent compared with 2 percent. Material and social deprivation is also more common among foreign born persons than among persons born in Sweden.

Ahead of the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, Statistics Sweden is publishing some of the indicators used by the European Union to monitor the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

In 2019, Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands were the countries in the EU with the lowest proportion, between 4 and 5 percent, of the population living in conditions of material and social deprivation. Romania reported the highest proportion, at 39 percent.

Material and social deprivation is defined as the inability to afford at least five out of thirteen listed items. For example, the inability to pay unexpected expenses, afford adequate heating of the home, or to make timely payments. The indicator also expresses the inability to take part in social activities that cost money, such as sharing a meal with friends and relatives at least once per month, or being able to spend money on leisure activities. The indicator on material and social deprivation is a development of earlier EU indicators on material deprivation. By including expenses for socialising, the indicator aims to capture the social dimension that poverty can entail.

In Sweden, the proportion of the population that lives in material and social deprivation has been at around 3-4 percent in recent years. In 2019, this corresponded to around 400 000 persons.


Source: Eurostat, EU-SILC *Latest figures refer to 2018 **2014 figures are unavailable for Turkey ***Latest figures 2017

In Sweden, material and social deprivation is most common among persons who are unemployed; persons living in material and social deprivation account for 21 percent among unemployed persons, compared with 2 percent among employed persons. It is also more common for foreign born persons to live in these conditions, 11 percent, compared with 2 percent among persons born in Sweden.

Other results from the ULF/SILC

  • Just under 2 percent of Sweden’s population live in severe material deprivation. This proportion is larger among persons living alone with children and foreign born persons. In both these groups, the proportion is 6 percent.

  • In Sweden, 7 percent of the population has a low housing standard, which involves a leaking roof, cracks in windows, or damaged walls. In 2018, the EU average was 14 percent.

  • In Sweden, housing costs are a heavy burden on the household economy for around 8 percent of the population. This is one of the lowest percentages in the EU. In most countries, housing costs are a heavy burden for more than 20 percent of the population.

  • Around 11 percent of persons born in Sweden and 39 percent of persons born outside the EU have an annual income after tax that lies below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold. For the entire EU, the corresponding proportion of persons with an income below the at-risk-of-poverty is 15 percent among persons born in a Member State country and 31 percent among persons born outside the EU.

More about the statistics

The EU-SILC (European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) is a statistical survey that is conducted annually in the EU countries, as well as in several other countries. In Sweden, this survey has formed part of the Survey on Living Conditions (ULF-SILC) since 2008, and has enabled international comparisons. Further European results are presented on Eurostat’s website.

Eurostat: Income and Living Conditions

Definitions and explanations

Severe material deprivation means the inability to afford a certain standard of living. This is measured by examining whether people can afford:

  • unexpected expenses;
  • a one-week annual holiday;
  • a meal with meat, chicken or fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day;
  • adequate heating of a home;
  • access to a car;
  • to make payment arrears (mortgage or rent, utility bills, purchase instalments, or other loan payments);
  • to replace worn-out furniture;
  • to replace worn-out clothes;
  • to have two pairs of shoes;
  • Get together with friends/family for a coffee, beer or dinner at least once a month;
  • to have regular leisure activities;
  • to spend a small amount of money each week on him/herself;
  • to have an internet connection.

A person living in material and social deprivation cannot afford at least five of these thirteen items.

The indicator of material and social deprivation supplements earlier indicators of material deprivation, which focused on consumer goods and the ability to afford certain necessary expenses. By including social activities, such as leisure activities and socialising with friends/family that involve spending money, the indicator aims to capture the social dimension of poverty. 

The EU’s at-risk-of-poverty indicator is a relative measure of income poverty or low economic standard. Under this definition, an individual whose disposable income (salary, wage, pension, contributions, and so on) is below 60 percent of the country’s median income is considered to be at risk of poverty. This indicator does not measure a low standard of living or poverty, but rather low income in relation to other people in the country.

Statistical Database

More information is available in the Statistical Database

Feel free to use the facts from this statistical news but remember to state Source: Statistics Sweden.

Statistical agency and producer

Statistics Sweden, Social Welfare Statistics Unit

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171 54 Solna


Thomas Helgeson

+46 10 479 44 34

Ellen Ellfolk Kenttä

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