In recent years in the public discourse of many European countries there has been a shift in emphasis from ?poverty? to ?social exclusion?. Broadly interpreted, ?social exclusion? implies the ?inability of an individual to participate in the basic political, economic and social functionings of the society in which she/he lives?. In practice, there is little consensus about its proper operationalisation. The paper approaches ?social exclusion? from the point of view of ?chronic cumulative disadvantage? and attempts to identify population members at high risk of social exclusion in EU countries using the information of the European Community Household Panel (ECHP). The results show that there are many qualitative similarities and quantitative differences across the EU. In almost all countries the looser the links of the individual or the household with the labour market the higher the risk of social exclusion. However, the extent to which secure and uninterrupted employment provides a shield against social exclusion varies a lot across countries. Moreover, in almost all countries children face a higher risk of social exclusion than the rest of the population. To a large extent, this risk is accounted by the higher than average risk of social exclusion facing children living in lone-parent households. On the contrary, older persons face a high risk of social exclusion in only a few southern EU countries.