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UK elderly suffer the most appalling poverty rate in western Europe.  Britain’s low basic pension, combined with means-tested supplements, puts thousands of older people at risk. The proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986. This is the largest increase among western European countries, according to a new study.


The catastrophe is attributable to Britain’s state pension system and its “low basic payments and means-tested supplements”, says the author of the report, Pension Reforms and Old Age Inequalities in Europe.

Professor Bernhard Ebbinghaus, of the University of Oxford, will tell a European Sociological Association conference this week that the UK is one of five countries out of 16 that he has studied where there has been an increase in people aged 65 and over who are living in severe poverty, which is defined as having an income of 40% or less of the median average.

British Army

“The United Kingdom is a good example of systems that have historically failed to combat old-age poverty. These have rather miserly basic pensions with means-tested supplements, and this reproduces relatively high severe poverty rates among the elderly. British basic pensions are particularly low, 16% of average earnings, and require a long contribution period. Income-tested or means-tested targeted benefits are needed to supplement basic pensions and to lift them out of severe poverty.”

Using data from the Luxembourg Income Study, which spans several decades, Ebbinghaus found that: living in severe poverty, putting it equal-lowest in poverty rates of 16 western European countries.


Ebbinghaus said the UK compared unfavourably with many other countries: “The lowest poverty rates among older people are found in the relatively generous Dutch basic pensions and Nordic welfare states.”

Even when private pensions were taken into account, the UK continued to fare poorly; “The public-private mix puts many elderly at risk as they lack sufficient supplementary earnings-related pensions.”

Amber Rudd.... food Bank Queen

He contrasted the UK system, with its flat-rate basic pension, with the system used in Germany and several other European countries, where mandatory pension contributions are based on earnings.

Ebbinghaus also studied those aged 65 and over who can be classed as better off, meaning that they have an income of 60% or more of the median average. Only around 20% of the UK’s elderly met this criterion, closer to the average for Western Europe.


Michael Walsh was awarded Euro Weekly News ‘Writer of the Year 2011’. With 60 books bearing his name, thousands of new stories and columns, Michael is arguably Britain and Europe’s most prolific author of multi-topic books.

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  • This is a great site, with lots of good articles but you really need to proof read before publishing, I cannot share a link that leads to this article when the first sentence is: “UK elderly suffer the most appealing poverty rate in western Europe. “


    • It was a single and rare typo since put right. If that sort of thing upsets you, 1) write to the Guardian that was lampooned as the Grauniad by Private Eye for its hundreds of typos. 2) Try writing thousands of words 24 / 7. Do it on less than a waiter picks up in tips, write books, and promote stories as you go along. But, thank you for taking the time and trouble to share.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “That sort of thing does not upset” me, but people consider “that sort of thing” unprofessional, and doubt the articles worth or accuracy as a result, which is a shame considering the importance of your message. Are you suggesting that anything in the Guardian is worth reading except as satire? 🙂 Thank you for the update this I can and will share a link to.


    • C’mon man, a pretty easy typo to slip through.

      Liked by 2 people

  • david westerlund

    In the USA the elderly (I’m 85) see INFLATION as the great problem. So many elderly have gone to REVERSE MORTGAGE on their homes. leaving their life assets to the banks, not their children. We know who controls the banks.

    Liked by 4 people

  • Here in the North West we have Granada TV which is very supportive of social issues as they see it. Endless stories on their regional news bulletins about the hospitals, Social Services, care homes etc but at no point do they discuss the huge burden of immigration swamping those services. We up here see it first hand, it’s scarcely believable. Visiting Preston of late and you see people of African appearance around town when previously it was all Asian. Where are they being housed? We have a regular number of about seven beggars up and down the main drag Fishergate every day. I just don’t understand it. Preston and surrounding townships is like one great building site, we’ll have to educate the young in the not too distant future as to what grass is. Where I actually live just outside Preston the house building is relentless but the people buying the housing all seem to be white, so where are they moving from and who’s moving into the properties they vacate? To address the core storey line, the welfare burden up here being paid out of the Welfare budget obviously means there is less to go round, hence our white poverty.

    Liked by 3 people

    • david westerlund

      Paul H: Are you in the Pacific Northwest of the USA? PDX area? There is a GR8 like minded group in Salem, OR. I drive 99 miles one way to attend every other Friday. Another in Portland every other Thursday. Wish to attend?


  • geraintpendragon

    Third World immigration and Third World overpopulation is the elephant in the room that most western politicians cynically prefer not to see as it will affect their vote come election time. As a result all the freebies, largesse, and social care given to these new arrivals has to come from somewhere as few, if any, contribute. So let’s borrow from the bank in th sky and call it quantitative easing or some other buzz word. Trillions in debt? Well let the next and future generations pay for it. Who cares by then I’ll be living in my gated village somewhere in the sun. Oh, have the guardians of the Oxford dictionary remove the word pensioner, white, and European from it. They won’t exist much longer.

    Liked by 1 person

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