Public services

Addressing household over-indebtedness

12 Mars 2020
Executive summary in 22 languages


Principales conclusions

  • In 2016, 14% of people (EU28) reported not being able to make scheduled payments related to rent or mortgages, consumer credit, loans from family or friends, or utility or telephone bills. If those with difficulty making ends meet – but without any arrears – are included, 21% risk being over-indebted.
  • Over-indebtedness is on the increase again in some countries and population groups.
  • People aged 25–49 years are most at risk. A smaller group of over-indebted people aged 65+ experience greater financial problems and lower mental well-being.
  • While policymakers often focus on mortgage or consumer debts with financial institutions, debt problems in low-income groups often relate to non-payment of utility or telephone bills, rent, taxes or fines, debts with friends, or healthcare costs. Policymakers interested in early intervention should not overlook this.
  • If over-indebtedness is not addressed in an appropriate and timely way, there are negative consequences for affected individuals and households, as well as for society as a whole. Issues arising from over-indebtedness can include mental and physical health problems, as well as unemployment and inactivity.


The issue of over-indebtedness continues to be a concern, particularly among some population groups and in Member States where recent increases can be observed. This report provides an overview of the main causes, triggers and consequences of household over-indebtedness, including the costs to society. It then examines two policy responses in the EU and Norway: debt advisory services and debt settlement procedures. While the findings show that in the wake of the global financial crisis, such services and procedures have generally become more widely available and accessible, gaps remain. The overall aim of the report is to draw the attention of national and EU-level policymakers to ways to improve policy responses to household over-indebtedness.

  • Full report

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    Catalogue info

    Addressing household over-indebtedness

    This report addresses the problem of household over-indebtedness, which is broadly defined as being unable to make payments related to regular commitments.

    Available formats

    Cite this publication as: 
    Eurofound (2020), Addressing household over-indebtedness, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
  • Executive summary

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    Catalogue info

    Lutter contre le surendettement des ménages


    La question du surendettement demeure un sujet de préoccupation, en particulier parmi certaines catégories de la population et dans des États membres où des augmentations récentes de ce phénomène peuvent être observées. Ce rapport fournit une vue d’ensemble des principales causes et conséquences du surendettement des ménages et de ses principaux facteurs déclencheurs, y compris les coûts qu’il représente pour la société. Il examine ensuite deux réponses politiques au sein de l’UE et en Norvège: les services de conseil en matière d’endettement, et les procédures de règlement de dettes. Si les résultats montrent qu’à la suite de la crise financière mondiale, ces services et procédures sont généralement devenus plus disponibles et plus accessibles, des écarts subsistent. L’objectif général du rapport est d’attirer l’attention des décideurs politiques nationaux et européens sur les moyens d’améliorer les réponses politiques au surendettement des ménages.

    Available in 22 languages for download

  • Tables and graphs


    Table 1: Debt advisory services in the EU28 and Norway, 2019
    Table 2: Illustrations of user numbers of debt advisory services, 2008–2018
    Table 3: Debt settlement procedures for over-indebted people, EU28 and Norway, 2019
    Table 4: Debt settlement procedure usage data, 2005–2018


    Figure 1: Proportion of people aged 18+ at risk of over-indebtedness: arrears* or difficulties making ends meet, 2016, by Member State and EU28 (%)
    Figure 2: Proportion of people with arrears, by income quartile and type of arrears, 2016, EU28 (%)
    Figure 3: Proportion of people with arrears, by age group and type of arrears, 2016, EU28 (%)
    Figure 4: People with arrears, reporting great difficulties making ends meet and the WHO-5, by age group, 2016
    Figure 4a: Proportion of people with any arrears, reporting great difficulties making ends meet by age group, 2016, EU28 (%)
    Figure 4b: WHO-5 score by age group of people with any arrears, 2016, EU28 (max. 100)
    Figure 5: Proportion of households with arrears in mortgage or rent, utility bills and hire purchase instalments, 2010–2017, EU28 (%)
    Figure 6: Availability of debt advice in the EU28, 2019

Il est possible que des recherches effectuées avant le retrait du Royaume-Uni de l’Union européenne le 31 janvier 2020 et publiées après cette date incluent des données relatives aux 28 États membres de l’UE. À compter de cette date, les recherches ne porteront, sauf indication contraire, que sur les 27 États membres de l’UE (UE-28 moins le Royaume-Uni)

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