One of the most serious and worrying consequences of the current economic crisis in Europe is that levels of poverty have shot up, affecting children in particular.
Save the Children, the international organisation for the support and protection of children which operates in 120 countries, in its report entitled Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in Europe, recently brought to light the existence of 27 million children in Europe living at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The study confirmed that the fallout of the crisis is affecting above all the most vulnerable groups in society, and those most profoundly affected are minors.
The study also explains that in the 28 countries of the EU, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland the actual overall figure for child poverty has exceeded forecasts with the figures between 2011 and 2012 alone rising by half a million.
This poor performance reflects the fact that poverty will not have fallen in line with the EU’s plan which envisaged at least 20 million people rescued from social exclusion and poverty by 2020.
Indeed, the entire opposite is the case: the report insists the gap between rich and poor is widening all the time.
Regarding these alarming figures, Ester Asin Martínez, director of Save the Children and its representative in the EU, insists that child poverty is a reality across Europe ‘including in traditionally egalitarian Scandinavian countries.’
Unsurprisingly, the figures differ between regions: hence, in Scandinavian countries 12-19% of minors are at risk of poverty; in Hungary and Lithuania the figure is 35-41%; whilst in Bulgaria and Romania it is over 52%.
Though the base cause of this poverty and social exclusion, according to the organisation, is the economic crisis of the past few years, there are various factors which play a part: low family income; lack of access to basic public services such as health, education, employment and food; and a lack of participation on the part of children in age-specific socio-cultural activities.
On this basis, the Federation for Organisations supporting the Education and Care of Children and Adolescents considers that one possible solution is via ‘the coordination of EU social policy and the creation of a common European welfare state.’
The president of the institution, Spaniard Jaume Clupés, is of the opinion that in recent years a ‘serious attack on children’s well-being due to the harsh cutbacks’ is taking place in Europe; and he laments the fact that these cuts ‘have eroded children’s access to basic services such as health and education’ which in his opinion translates to fewer opportunities for them.
Returning to Save the Children’s study, they draw attention to some important indicators of a worsening situation in the old continent:
11% of EU minors live in households where 40% of income goes to meeting accommodation costs. In some countries, the figure is as high as 30% of households.
13% of children leave school after the first phase of higher secondary education and are not in vocational training or other forms of education. In some countries, the figure is as high as 25%.
17% of children live in houses with leaking roofs, damp in the floors or rotten window frames.
Globally, 570 million children currently live on less than $1.25 per day – considering all countries from the USA to India, including Africa and the majority of Asian countries – according to UNICEF figures: a reality which is very rarely listed for discussion at G7 (the 7 most advanced economies in the world) forums and meetings.
Save the Children says that Spain’s record, with 840,000 children living in extreme poverty, is behind that of Romania but ahead of Bulgaria and Greece when it comes to making headway with this social problem.
Hence, one in every three minors is at risk of social exclusion and if family policies are not implemented to deal with this, there is the risk that they will continue to suffer this hardship for the duration of their childhood and adolescence.
Also of concern is the situation faced by those between 18 and 29 for whom poverty has gone from 15.5% to 26.4%
Those most at risk are children of immigrants, those from large families and minors who live in households where both parents are unemployed. The risk of falling into poverty in this last case is 60.7%
Well regarded Spanish celebrities have come out in public declaring that just a thousand euros of financial assistance per child per year could see more than 400,000 children lifted out of poverty – as confirmed by Dr. Sara Ayllón, a specialist in Applied Economics.
According to official statistics a household is deemed to be in poverty if it has less than 780 euros coming in per month in the case of single parent families, and 1,264 euros in the case of two parent families with children.
The consequences of this poverty in Spain mean many things.
For instance, 3% of children do not get to have protein at least once every two days; 7.9% live in households which cannot heat the house adequately in winter; and 17.7% live in homes plagued by leaks, a situation which has a negative future impact on children’s health, education and future employment prospects. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET ACIL – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)