World Economy

Poverty Threatens 26m European Children

Poverty Threatens  26m European Children Poverty Threatens  26m European Children

Some 26 million children and young people in Europe are threatened by poverty or social exclusion after years of economic crisis, according to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation which gave Greece the worst marks in the entire EU.

Bertelmann’s Social Justice Index, an annual survey of social conditions in the 28-member bloc, found a yawning gap between north and south, and between young and old, New Europe reported.

In Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, the number of children and young people that are under threat because of their economic condition has increased by 1.2 million to 7.6 million since 2007, the study said.

In addition, the number of EU citizens between 20 and 24 years old who are neither employed nor in education or training has risen in 25 of the 28 member states since 2008, with Germany and Sweden the only countries where the outlook for this age group has improved.

In Italy, 32% of people in their early 20s fall into this category, while in Spain it is 24.8%.

“We cannot afford to lose a generation in Europe, either socially or economically,” said Aart De Geus, chairman of the executive board at Bertelsmann. “The EU and its member states must make special efforts to sustainably improve opportunities for younger people.”

By contrast, the study found that a declining number of people aged 65 or older are at risk of poverty, because retirement benefits have not declined as strongly as incomes for younger citizens.

Bertelsmann said three Europe-wide trends were exacerbating this gulf between young and old, including growing public debt, stagnating investment in education and research, and rising pressure on the financial viability of social security systems.

Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Czech Republic stood at the top of the social justice rankings, while Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Spain were at the bottom.

  Poverty Down in 8 States

One in four Europeans (24.6%) or 122 million people risk being poor or socially excluded. Trends indicate that Europe is failing to live up to the aspiration of the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, for a so-called AAA-rated society. However, the discussion about the Eurozone is important because it relates to the sustainability of the wider European project.

This discussion is bound to be triggered by the release of a comparative study by the Bertelsmann Foundation Social Justice Index last Tuesday. A second reading of the study indicates that eight out of nineteen Eurozone member states have reduced poverty. Of those that reduced poverty, only Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania did so substantially. Bratislava went from 21.3% of the population in risk of poverty in 2008 to 18.4% 2015. Lithuania made an annual leap from 32.5% in 2014 to 27.7% in 2015; Latvia that went from 37.9% in 2011 to 27.7% in 2015.

From 2008 to 2015, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Estonia have seen an improvement below 0.5% despite relatively buoyant labor market conditions.

However, for many countries in the Eurozone’s periphery, the increase in poverty and social exclusion is dramatic, or at least remarkable. Greece went from 28.3% of the population in risk of poverty in 2008 to 36% in 2015; Ireland went from 23.1% in 2008 to 29.5% in 2015. That was to be expected, given fiscal consolidation programs. However, other countries such as Spain went from 23.3% in 2008 to 29.2% in 2015, surpassing Portugal whose poverty rate increased by merely 2%. Malta went from 19.7% in 2008 to 24% in 2015.

Substantial increases in poverty do not only come in the European South. Austria went from being compared to Scandinavia in 2008 (16.7%) to a whopping 19.2% that is closer to Germany; Luxembourg too went from 15.9% to 19%.