Belgians getting poorer and seeking social aid due to energy high prices, study shows
Poverty rates dropped last year in Belgium. However, as a result of the increased cost of living, those living in poverty became poorer and the lower middle class is increasingly relying on social services.
In 2021, fewer people were living in poverty in Belgium than two years earlier. At the end of the year, a reversal was noted, according to the latest Poverty Barometer in Belgium. The research showed that, since September last year, those who were poor became poorer already as a result of higher energy prices. As consequence, the demand for help from food banks and Belgium's Public Centres for Social Welfare (CPAS) increased as well at this point.
At the end of last month, CPAS informed about the massive spike in the cost of energy, notably gas and electricity prices, was forcing more Belgians to turn to them for support.
For many people with lower incomes in Belgium, the cost of energy bills is also exceeding their monthly wages. The gap between poor people's income and the poverty threshold in Belgium is growing. They are increasingly facing difficult choices about whether to pay their energy bills or spend money on necessary groceries.
Last year, more than 95.4 million people in the EU, representing one in five people, were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to figures published by Eurostat on Thursday 16 September.
Government measures needed
People who were usually more financially resistant are now also worse off, and the Belgian middle class is increasingly turning to CPAS for financial help, repeating the trend from the worst point in the pandemic.
In 2021, more than 177,000 people in Belgium sought help from Food Banks every month, a record. In the first half of this year, the figure rose even further to 204,000. The number of files for debt mediation has also risen, and are now one-fifth higher than before the pandemic.
According to Decennium Doelen, which brings together all Belgian anti-poverty organisations, mutual societies, trade unions and civil society organisations, more support measures from the government are desperately needed, from long-term energy measures to more social housing.
© BELGA PHOTO (BRUNO FAHY)