Welfare state and Poverty in Flanders #9 Consumption

Poverty evolution in Flanders

9.     Consumption

People with higher incomes are likely to consume more goods and services, and to attribute a far higher proportion of their expenditure to ‘non-essentials’ such as holidays, visits to restaurants, or other leisure activities. [1]

Data source: World Resources Institute. 2006. ...

World Population Prospects - Data source: World Resources Institute. 2006

Across the EU‑27, both the retired and the unemployed spent more than 50 % of their household expenditure on housing, utilities, food and non-alcoholic beverages in 2005, in contrast to 38.4 % for non-manual workers in industry and services. This latter group allocated a higher proportion (than any of the other socio-economic groups) of their household expenditure to transport (13.8 %), recreation and culture (9.7 %), restaurants and hotels (6.3 %), clothing and footwear (6.5 %) and furnishings (6.0 %). [2]

The dominant patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable. The pressure of the media on people, who are not strong enough to resist all the commercials and advertisement articles, gets certain people in a downfall.

Though we cannot ignore the needs of the present generation everybody should be aware that the needs of the future generations cannot be ignored either. Everyone should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Within the EU‑27, almost two thirds of those at-risk-of-poverty were unable to face unexpected expenses (62 %) or afford a one week annual holiday (65 %). Furthermore, about one in every five (21 %) of those at-risk-of-poverty could not keep their home adequately warm, or were unable to eat meat or fish every other day (22 %). Regarding a lack of durables, about one fifth (22 %) of those at-risk-of-poverty in the EU‑27 did not have a car, with far lower proportions lacking a washing machine (7 %), a telephone (6 %) or a colour television (2 %).
Households composed of single parents with dependent children were also generally the most materially deprived.
Single parent households in Flanders as in the EU are unable to face unexpected expenses, afford a one week holiday away from home or afford a car, while a higher proportion of single parent households also faced arrears on their mortgage or rent. Households composed of two adults and at least three dependent children that were at-risk-of-poverty were also slightly more materially deprived than households at risk- of-poverty in general regarding their ability to meet unexpected bills or their ability to afford one week of holiday away from home. Households with two adults, one of whom was older than 65 in 2007, generally had lower proportions of material deprivation than other types of household at-risk-of poverty. This is likely to reflect both the accumulation of durable goods during their working lives and opportunities to dis-save. [3]

Payments problems and debt inconvenience form often an important problem for men with a low income.  Ends 2010 stood registered 144,504 Flemish with payment difficulties by the Central for Credits (Centrale voor Kredieten) to private people from the National Bank of Belgium (Nationale Bank van België) Hereby has to be observed that in these figures there is only taken into account the single bill with credits (for consumption or mortgage), but not with other debts as debts for rent, energy invoices, health’s expense, telephone or fiscal debts. When you take those into account we see a tremendous cipher of more then350 000 people with a lot of debts. In 2009, 5% of the Flemish, approximately 270,000 people, lived almost in a family with at least 1 overdue payment in the past year.

A lot of Flemish people fall under the burden of the 50.909 arrangements made for collective debts regulation.[4]

Only 24.800 persons receive a “leefloon” or minimum social revenue in the frame of the Law on Social Integration: Recht op Maatschappelijke Integratie (RMI). On average 6,921 people could receive through the Law on Social Help: Recht op Maatschappelijke Hulp (RMH) a minimum income equivalent to the “leefloon” or living wage.

Only a limited number of people over 65 receive a living wage because they have separate rules: Guaranteed Income for the Elderly: Gewaarborgd Inkomen voor Bejaarden (GIB) which since 2002 gradually is replaced by Income guaranty for the Elderly: Inkomensgarantie voor Ouderen (IGO). Early 2010 it was about 55,078 elderly.

People with disabilities may rely on an Income replacement Compensation (IVT) if they do not carry out work. Early 2010 were in Flanders 58,748 of these allowances paid. The number of IVT’s remarkably increased in recent years.[5]

4% of working Flemings – about 100,000 people – live on a household income below the regional poverty threshold.

Consumption, Economic strain and Poverty risk

Consumption Expenditure breakdown

Institutions at all levels should be responsible for promoting equitable human development. Firms, factories should make their products at reasonable prices, respecting the makers and the consumers. By the creation process everything should be taken in consideration, giving all living beings respect and consideration. At the moment we notice to much the indifference for the quality of life of the labourers and of the animals and plants. Because the producers of externalities do not have an incentive to take into account the effect of their actions on others, many activities cause negative externalities such as pollution, and not enough activity that creates positive externalities.

A commitment towards sustainability is imperative and at the moment we urgently need a change of mind and heart to achieve this sustainability. Everything and everyone has to be taken into account. Everyone has a vital role to play and has to take up his responsibility. The whole society has to protect and restore the integrity of earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life. We should prevent the abuse of naturally occurring “free” goods and services. The Earth Charter Preamble states that “The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air.”

Natural “goods and services” are generated by ecosystems that are “self-regulating” and “self-sustaining”. Humans can interfere in these systems such that they collapse or cease to function, e.g. when wood is extracted from a forest at a faster rate than it can re-grow. Often we notice that people eager to earn a lot bring their direct environment in danger and only gain in the short term, but undermine the future of the next generation, while the factories are not interested in them and shall go to other places to bleed them dry. In order to have ongoing access to these natural goods and services, human activity cannot exceed the capacity of natural ecosystems to absorb the disturbances and impacts of resource use. The bloodsucking industry has to be called to a halt. Nobody and nothing may be exploited just to get higher returns in financial terms. Because those economy market dividends yield more inequality and create more poverty to others.

When we prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach, we can avoid future harm and impoverishment. We all have to take our responsibility and work against deterioration of the environment and of the people. People should also be more aware that working together can only bring better things, and that almsgiving lessens no man’s living; alms never make poor.

To protect its citizens the state should overview the production methods and the rewarding systems of the people involved, making sure that everything happens on equal terms in respect to everybody’s work and involvement. They also should keep an eye on it that patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction are adopted that safeguard earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.

Een analyse van de Armoede in Vlaanderen door Marcus Ampe - Poverty in Flanders, an ananlyse by Marcus Ampe


[1] Household consumption expenditure inequalities analysed within Subchapter 2.2. of the EU Eurostat 2010 survey

[2] Household consumption expenditure inequalities analysed within Subchapter 2.2. of the EU Eurostat 2010 survey

[3] Combating poverty and social exclusion: a statistical portrait of the European Union 2010; Eurostat

[4] See chapter 5

[5] : Vlaamse armoedemonitor, Diensten voor het Algemeen Regeringsbeleid; Studiedienst van de Vlaamse Regering; Jo Noppe, Verantwoordelijke uitgever Josée Lemaître; Maart 2011

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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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