Poverty-risk expands

Third Report on the impact of the economic crisis. Serious situation at social level in 7 "weak" Countries

In Europe one person in 4 is at poverty-risk (24,5%). One in 3 in seven "weak" Countries of the EU: Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, and Cyprus. Caritas Europe presented on February 19 the third report on the crisis in the Old Continent examining the figures in seven countries considered "the weakest ones." The picture it portrays is discouraging: European strategies that were to result in a reduction of poverty by 2020 have failed. The impact of the crisis, austerity policies and cuts in social spending imposed by the recession and by governments have increased poverty and social inequalities. Almost as if to say, paradoxically, that the poor have enriched the wealthiest brackets. The Caritas network – which has stepped up its efforts for solidarity and against the crisis – is asking Europe to reverse course, and suggested a number of concrete measures. The report highlights the growth of the severely poor, youth unemployment, families that are not working as would be expected (increasing precarious and part-time jobs), young people not in education nor employment, school dropouts, the impossibility of paying for medical care. "Terrible political decisions." In 2013 – the most recent global data available – 24.5% of the European population (122.6 million people, a quarter of the total) was at risk of poverty or social exclusion (1.8 million less than in 2012). In seven countries most affected by the social and economic crisis the same phenomenon involved 31% of the resident population (+ 6.5% compared to the EU average). The Lisbon Strategy 2020 target was to decrease by 20 million the number of poor people, namely, 96.4 million people in poverty by 2020" – said Walter Nanni, head of studies of Caritas Italy – but the poor have increased instead. One wonders if the medicine meant to restore public spending has killed the patient." Jorge Nuno Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europa, denounced "terrible political decisions." Seven years since the outbreak of the crisis, noted Paul Beccegato, deputy director of Caritas Italy, "social cohesion and confidence in institutions is decreasing across Europe, the risk of racism and hatred is on the rise." Hence the proposal of "a comprehensive review of the social model for better social justice." More unemployed youths in Greece. In the seven countries considered there is an overall unemployment rate of 16.9%, in Europe from 2012 to 2013 it rose from 10.4% to 10.8%. In 7 countries the Neet have reached 18.1% compared to the average of 13% in EU countries, with the sad record of Italy. In EU28 in 2014 there were over 25 million citizens without a job (8.4 million more than in 2008). The people most affected are those with low levels of education and young people (more than 5 million under 25, 22.5%). Unemployment is particularly severe in Greece: 27.3% and 58.3% among young people. But the problem recurs in several other Member States. Less healthcare and education. Owing to the cuts in the field of healthcare and education increasing numbers of Europeans renounce essential medical care (22.8% on average in 7 countries). In Greece, health spending per capita has fallen by 11.1%, in Ireland by 6.6%. In the course of 2013, in Italy, 10.5% filed a request for healthcare services in Counselling Centres (+ 6% compared to 2012). Cuts in school expenditure have led to an increase in the number of school dropouts (Romania witnessed a 9.4% drop from 2010 to 2014); the number of working poor population is equally high (40.4%). In the other six countries the number of families almost without any work at all has increased – from 12.3% in 2012 to 13.5% in 2013. Anti-crisis initiatives. A Focus on Italy provided other interesting figures. Since 2010 the diocesan Caritas have been forced to double (+ 99%) their initiatives against the crisis. Solidarity canteens that distribute free food to 109 dioceses increased by 70% and there are 77.7% more experimental projects to combat the crisis (from 121 to 215 in 2013). Caritas activated 1,148 anti-crisis initiatives: 139 diocesan job counselling and information on housing needs in 68 dioceses (+ 77.7%). In the course of 2013 Italian Caritas activated a "special anti-crisis fund" to support the diocesan Caritas. From June to December 2013, 76% of the diocesan Caritas have submitted a request for reimbursements amounting to 5 million 650 thousand euro. Most expenses are related to contributions to income (39.6% of the total) and the purchase of essential goods (32%). In the South of the Country more bank guarantee funds are requested for microcredit activities, contributions to income and support to housing needs. In the North, however, job vouchers are the main item of expenditure.

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