This viral tweet from the Spectator Index (which is in no way linked to the Spectator magazine) ranks the poverty rate of a number of different countries in Europe.
But it’s incorrect to suggest that the UK’s poverty rate is higher than other European countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy as the tweet does. That’s because the measure of poverty used for the UK here is different to the one used for all the other countries—it’s also looking at a different year.
Although the tweet says that the figures relate to 2018, they seem (with the exception of the UK figures) to be figures for 2016.
Looking at consistent figures on the proportion of people “at risk of poverty” in the UK in 2016, we can see the comparable UK figure is around 16% (just below the EU average) rather than 23%.
The most recent figures we have, using this measure, are for 2017. These place the UK twelfth out of the 28 EU countries and at almost exactly the same level as the EU average (17%).
Most of the figures used by the Spectator Index—and the figures in our chart above— look at the “at-risk-of-poverty” rate in each country. This measures the proportion of people at risk of poverty after “social transfers” have been counted—things like pensions and benefits.
Specifically that means people whose take-home pay after benefits are less than 60% of the national average (median). These figures are published by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency.
But the UK figure used by the Spectator Index is from a different source entirely—a UK-based think tank called the Resolution Foundation.
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