Material and social deprivation in Malta dropped by more than half in two years, according to Eurostat figures, although one in 10 remain unable to afford basic resources.

Material deprivation refers to a person’s inability to afford typical goods and services, such as facing unexpected expenses, eating meat, chicken or fish every other day, replacing worn-out clothes and furniture, keeping houses warm, taking a one-week annual holiday away from home, or meet friends and family for a meal or drinks once a month.

A person is considered to be suffering material deprivation if they cannot afford at least five of 13 such items.

According to Eurostat, 10.5 per cent of people in Malta experienced these difficulties in 2016, down from 15.3 per cent the previous year and 22.9 per cent in 2014.

Last year, the rate was highest among those with up to a secondary level education – 15.3 per cent – and under five per cent for those with a higher-secondary or tertiary level.

Low earners face increasing challenges particularly due to spiralling rent costs

The EU average was 17 per cent, with the highest and lowest rates recorded in Romania (50 per cent) and Sweden (three per cent) respectively.

Anti-poverty campaigner Charles Miceli, from Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, said the new figures were encouraging signs, but warned that while many people were moving in the right direction, others were falling through the cracks.

Mr Miceli told the Times of Malta that low earners were facing increasing challenges particularly due to spiralling rent costs and food prices, which were increasing every year.

“These aren’t easy issues to address, but we need to start seriously considering them if we’re going to help people out of poverty,” he said.

A report on the national strategy policy for poverty reduction, published by the government last month, showed a drop from 24 per cent to 20 per cent in the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion between 2013 and 2016.

The data also showed a decrease in the number of people who suffer from severe material deprivation in Malta: from 39,000 to 19,000. As things stand, this makes up 4.4 per cent of the local population, which is below the EU average of 7.5 per cent.

But while the percentage decreased among children and youths at risk of poverty, it increased among the elderly.

The number of those aged over 65 who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion has increased from 21 per cent to 26 per cent.

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