Number of higher educated at risk of poverty doubled since 2008

by Lorraine Williamson
risk of poverty


A total of 1.4 million higher educated people in Spain are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. That is twice as many as in 2008 (674 000 people), and the highest number in the entire period studied, according to the 13th report ‘El estado de la Pobreza en España‘.  

The report, compiled by the European Network Against Poverty, was presented on 17 October to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It reveals that 42.9% of the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion have completed secondary or higher education and that one in 10 people with higher education are at risk of poverty. 

The report’s authors also confirm a ‘trend’ observed in recent years: ‘that work without suitable conditions does not guarantee sufficient income to escape poverty’, as one in three people living in poverty (32.9%) are in paid work, something they attribute to ‘low wages and labour market insecurity since 2008’. 

Moreover, as a novelty, this year’s edition includes an analysis of the link between poverty and social exclusion rates and specific elements such as housing, gender, age or the influence of habitat, and the authors state that the conclusions in this respect are ‘very worrying’.  

For instance, the data show that “the cost of housing, the gender gap and insufficient support for families with children” are “key factors” in the emergence of poverty in Spain. 

Cost of housing  

In the case of housing, the study shows that in 2022, four in five people with high spending on housing lived in poverty (79.1%).Their housing expenditure amounted to 39.1% of household income, an effort more than three times higher than that of people not living in poverty (12.5%). 

Gender inequality 

On the other hand, the report identifies gender inequality as another major factor in poverty. 27.2% of women are at risk of poverty or exclusion compared to 24.8% of men. The recovery policies do not work for equally well. According to the study, social policies have succeeded in lifting half a million men out of poverty since 2015, and 61,000 women. 

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Children and young people 

In Spain, almost 2.6 million children and adolescents are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a third of the total (32.2%), a percentage that rises for single-parent families (49.2%). 

Improvement compared to 2021 

Overall, the report’s authors point out that indicators of poverty and social exclusion have improved compared to 2021. In 2022, 12.3 million people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in Spain, 26% of the population, 800,000 fewer people than the previous year. The number of people in severe poverty was also reduced by 600,000. Yet these figures are “still extraordinarily high”, with 4.2 million people living on an income of less than €560 a month per unit of consumption. 

Half of the population struggled to make ends meet 

The report shows that in 2022, almost half of the Spanish population struggled to make ends meet (47.8%); a third could not afford at least one week’s holiday a year (33.5%); and 17.1% could not keep their homes at a suitable temperature (14.3% in 2021 and 10.9% in 2020). In any case, the authors of the study highlight the “protective role of the state” and warn that “without policies for social protection and public pensions, the number of people living in poverty would double, reaching almost half the population”. They also argue that in the case of severe poverty, almost a third of the population would be affected and inequality would be ‘exorbitant’ as ‘the richest 20% would earn about 48 times more than the poorest 20%’. 

The data also shows that “economic growth alone is not enough” to fight poverty, as “it would take 68 years of uninterrupted GDP per capita growth to end poverty in Spain”. 

Spain divided into two halves 

Regarding the differences by autonomous community, the authors again found ‘a division of Spain into two halves’: communities from Madrid to the north generally have lower rates of poverty or social exclusion. On the other hand, communities in the south have rates that are extraordinarily high and well above the national average. 

The European Network Against Poverty calls for a state pact to prevent and combat poverty and exclusion, aiming to address ‘with a strong gender perspective’ areas such as the quality of the labour market, a guaranteed income or the right to access and maintain housing, as well as supporting redistributive economic and fiscal policies ‘that put people at the centre’. 


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