Poverty and pension protection among elderly immigrants in Belgium

Line De Witte, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Sofie Vanassche, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

After the Second World War, Belgium – as other Western countries – welcomed a large amount of immigrant workers. These post-war immigration waves of mainly Italian, Turkish and Moroccan ‘guest workers’ are now retiring in large numbers. Previous studies show that these former guest workers have higher poverty risks on old age than non-immigrant elderly. This is especially true for immigrants coming from North-Africa and Turkey. Their former labour market position seems to only partly explain these differences. In contrast to non-immigrants, intergenerational household composition seems to have a protective function against poverty for immigrants coming from Turkey, North Africa and Congo. These differences might however be very related to the poverty measure in place (eligibility to social assistance) and hide actual differences in poverty. For example, as the eligibility to social assistance is determined based on the household income, older people living in intergenerational households might be ineligible to receive social benefits, while the household income per capita is very low. Further, living together with others reduces poverty risks, but might increase the dependency of these immigrants upon others in the household. Therefore, we want to measure the individual income-situation of these people in order to have an idea on their dependency. We will also include a measure of poverty based upon 60% of the median household income and compare the poverty risks according to these different standards. Our main focus is whether social assistance benefits are able to reduce poverty risks for immigrant groups that seem to be protected against poverty at first sight and to what extent these immigrants are dependent on others in the household. For this investigation, we make use of an administrative data set of 93.657 people (of which almost 20.000 with migration background) 65 years and older in 2008 and living in Belgium.

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Presented in Session 73: Immigration and the welfare state