The government on Tuesday sought to massage latest European Union data showing a slight drop in the percentage of people in Cyprus who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, saying that this reflected an overall improvement in the economy.
According to Eurostat figures, the at risk of poverty rate in Cyprus rose to 25.2 per cent in 2017, from 23.3 in 2008.
But after social transfers, 15.7 per cent were classed as being at risk of poverty in 2017, a slight decrease from 15.9 per cent back in 2008.
In Cyprus, 11.5 per cent of the population was ‘severely materially deprived’ in 2017, compared to 9.1 per cent in 2008.
And in the category of ‘persons aged 0-59 living in households with very low work intensity’, the scorecard in Cyprus was 9.4 per cent last year, compared to 4.5 per cent in 2008.
Nevertheless, the government still managed to put on a positive spin on the numbers.
Citing figures not in the Eurostat news release, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the percentage of Cypriots at risk of poverty has been falling steadily in the past three years: from 28.9 per cent in 2015, to 27.7 per cent in 2016 and then to 25.2 per cent in 2017.
Though noting that the indicator does not relate to real incomes, Prodromou said that “the general improvement in economic conditions in our country, and the remarkable ongoing economic growth recorded since 2016 and accompanied by the general rise in income, also leads to a reduction in the percentage of the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion.”
According to the EU’s definition, “The at risk of poverty rate or social exclusion is the share of people whose total household income (after social transfers, tax and other deductions), available for spending or saving, is below the at risk of poverty threshold, which is set at 60 per cent of the national median equivalised disposable income after social transfers.
“This indicator does not measure wealth or absolute poverty but low income in comparison to other residents in that country.”
In 2017, 112.9 million people, or 22.5 per cent of the population, in the European Union were at risk of poverty.