For struggling Belgians, leisure activities are becoming luxuries
More than a million Belgians are living in a state of material and social deprivation, according to a new survey on income and living conditions for carried out by Statbel, the Belgian statistics office.
Respondents from 6,700 households across the country were asked about 13 expenses that they could or could not afford. Households that cannot afford five of those 13 expenses are considered materially and socially deprived. The data was collected between February and August 2022.
Christophe Blanckaert of the Belgian interfederal taskforce in the combat against poverty, insecurity and social exclusion, said that the results painted a grim picture.
“For us, the figures are still quite worrying,” he told Bel RTL. “The proportions are much higher for certain categories of the population - vulnerable groups such as the unemployed, tenants, single-parent families or people with low incomes. For the unemployed, that represents one in three people who are in a situation of material and social deprivation.”
According to the survey, one in five Belgians surveyed said they could not afford an unforeseen expense of €1,300. The same proportion of respondents said that it was unthinkable for them to go on holiday for one week a year. Some 5% of respondents said they were unable to heat their homes adequately – the highest percentage since 2019.
The survey also suggests that basic leisure activities are increasingly becoming luxuries for Belgians, with one in 10 unable to participate regularly in sporting activities, go to the cinema or see a concert.
The results differed drastically by region, with nearly one in five – 17.5% – in the Brussels-Capital Region, 14.4% in Wallonia and 5.4% in Flanders considered to be living in a state of material and social deprivation.
Subjective poverty, defined as having significant difficulty in making ends meet, was also more rife in the capital, facing more than one third of respondents (35.4%). Almost a quarter – 23.7% – of respondents from the south of the country were living in subjective poverty, compared to fewer than one in 10 – 9.7% – in Flanders.
The fact that this seems to be a suprise after the past three years is, in itself, a suprise.