The Risk of Poverty Amongst Women in Europe

Morag Gillespie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Women’s increased risk of poverty is a recognised feature of contemporary society. Discussions focused on what we mean by poverty, how we measure incidences of poverty and how we address issues of social exclusion are defining features of current reform debates with reference to EU social policy. However, such debates often fail adequately to account for the gendered nature of poverty and the related concept of social exclusion. This chapter sets out to identify the key factors that contribute to women’s increased risk of poverty and to set such within a context of enlargement and change in the European Union. The argument is made that a host of factors are at work in determining women’s access to opportunities and resources. In discussing these factors, attention will be drawn to the fact that, although women as a group can be defined by their gendered roles, their experiences of poverty and exclusion are attributable to individual circumstances and social relations that are highly diverse and complex. The multifaceted nature of women’s relative disadvantage implies that agreement on a universal policy prescription to address such is neither possible nor desirable. However, the current employment focused agenda that is driving much of EU economic and social policy implicitly assumes such a universal approach. The conclusion will be drawn that, rather than promoting an environment in which men and women are perceived to benefit equally, the prioritising of paid work above all else may actually reinforce existing patterns of gender inequality. Ultimately this will further increase the risk of women’s impoverishment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen's Social Rights and Entitlements
EditorsAudrey Guichon, Christina L. van den Anker, Irina Novikova
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)978-1-4039-4992-9
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • women
  • risk of poverty
  • poverty
  • social exclusion
  • European Union
  • gender


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