Official statistics released by NSO indicate that in 2020, although we were in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, the number of people in a situation of severe material deprivation declined from 17,506 in 2019 to 16,636 in 2020. This means that one in twenty people who in 2019 did not have the means to afford certain basic expenses, acquired such means during 2020.
In fact, other official statistics indicate that those dependent on social assistance declined by about 500 during 2020. One in twelve of those who required this benefit in 2019 were able to support themselves through gainful employment in 2020.
During 2020 the number of people who fell behind in payments of electricity and water bills, rents or debts was lower by 2,282, or 6%, compared to 2019. Even the number of those who could not afford to keep their home warm decreased by 1,259 or 3%.
As a result of the decline in 2020, the proportion of Malta’s population in a situation of severe material deprivation decreased to 3.3%, the second lowest rate in history, marginally better than the result achieved in 2018.
An exercise carried out by TheJournal.mt shows a clear contrast between these figures and the situation following the 2008 financial crisis which saw a sharp increase in the number of people in a vulnerable situation, despite an economic effect ten times less than that of COVID.
As a result, the proportion of those in a situation of severe material deprivation had risen from 4.3% in 2008 to 5% in 2009, with an increase of 3,000 persons. The lack of Government assistance led to a further rise in social exclusion in 2010, with another rise of 6,000 in the number of those in severe material deprivation. Consequently, the proportion of the population in this vulnerable situation had reached 6.5%, double the current rate.
In 2009 and 2010 the number of those who could not afford their electricity and water bills had increased. This was a direct effect of the rise in prices by 20% in 2008, 16% in 2009 and 24% in 2010 in the midst of an economic crisis.
In 2008 Malta had a rate of severe material deprivation that was half of the European average. By 2013 it had exceeded the European average. The main cause attributed to this increase was again the rise in utility and fuel prices.