Some 637,000 people in the Netherlands were living below the poverty line last year, or 3.8% of the population, national statistics agency CBS said on Wednesday.
That is the lowest level since the CBS began monitoring poverty in 1977 and is largely due to €1,680 in payments made to low income families last year to help meet soaring energy bills.
Without the extra benefits, some 5.9%, or almost a million people, would have been below the poverty line. Last year the poverty line was put at €1,200 for a single person and €1,690 for a couple with no children.
Poverty is particularly an issue in the big four cities, where 24% of poor households live, but only 13% of the population. The situation is particularly acute in Rotterdam and The Hague.
Limburg and Groningen provinces also have a high proportion of poor families, as do the cities Enschede and Nijmegen.
One in five children who were not born in the Netherlands are living on or below the poverty line, the CBS said, and that figure rises to more than 45% among Syrian refugees. In total, 5.2% of the country’s children are considered to come from a poor family.
Poverty and financial security are key issues in the general election campaign – and several parties have a particular emphasis on the working poor – people with full time jobs who cannot make ends meet because of soaring prices.
Centre and left-of-centre parties in particular have called for a reform of the current tax system so that people are less reliant on supplementary benefits to pay for healthcare and housing.
Most also want an increase in the minimum wage. D66 says it should be increased to €17.50 per hour and ChristenUnie €18.
Basic welfare in the Netherlands, excluding supplementary benefits, was €1,037 for a single person last year and €1,560 for a couple.