All-over in Europe, unemployment became a growing problem from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. Nevertheless, the effects on the economical situation of the unemployed and the whole population are quite different in European countries. In this paper we first give a brief overview over the development of unemployment rates in eight member states of the European Union and over the different reactions to provide the social protection of the unemployed. Therefore we look at the social security expenditures, the level of income replacement for the unemployed and recent social policy reforms concerning them. In the second section of the paper, we examine the development of income distribution and poverty taking different poverty lines into consideration. There is no general pattern neither for the relationship of inequality among the unemployed to the whole economically active population nor for the development from the 80s to the 90s. But one can say that in countries with increasing income inequality also poverty is rising (especially in the UK) and that where inequality among the unemployed is less pronounced the proportions of the poor went down from the mid 80s to the mid 90s (France and Ireland). In nearly all countries the risk of being poor is ernormously high for the unemployed, Denmark is the only exception.