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Greece has the fourth highest rate of childhood poverty in the European Union

30 March 2014 / 13:03:31  GRReporter
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Fátima Taboada López, Intern

The second crisis monitoring report of Caritas Europa, the world's largest charitable and humanitarian organization, funded and owned by the Catholic Church, evaluates the social situation of seven member states of the European Union (Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Romania) following the political decisions for combating the economic crisis.

The study shows the impact of the measures taken by the European Union and national authorities which were required and imposed by creditors in some countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Portugal. These measures have resulted in the impoverishment of these countries which have lost their social services and sometimes even access to medical care.

The European Union policy is inconsistent since it had promised to reduce poverty, create growth and increase employment through the signing of the Europe 2020 strategy plan in order to alleviate the effects of the crisis. However, economic priorities exceed social ones.

Regarding the situation in Greece, some fundamental rights are being violated by the austerity measures demanded mostly by creditors. For instance, there are a lot of people (more than three million) who have lost their health insurances since they have been unemployed for more than a year. Furthermore, Caritas Hellas points out that many of the measures agreed with creditors for increasing competitiveness, such as cutting wages and pensions, have not achieved reductions in prices; on the contrary, prices have increased due to rises in taxes.

In 2012 almost a quarter of the Greek population was at risk of poverty since their income was less than 60% of the national average income, which means that nobody worked and many households had no income. Greece has the fourth highest rate of childhood poverty (those aged under 18) in the European Union, exceeded only by Bulgaria, Spain and Romania.

In Spain, the risk of poverty among children under 18 was 29.9% in 2012, nearly nine points above the European Union average, which was 21.4% in 2013. Caritas reports that the number of households living in extreme poverty in the country rose to 1.5 million last year, from 900,000 in 2007 before the crisis hit. It is also noted that Cyprus has the highest poverty rate among people over 65 years - 29.3%, while the European average was 14.3% in 2012.

All these countries have a large number of unemployed and young people who may not receive an adequate pension in the future since they have not worked long enough. Such people are known as the "lost generation” and this situation will have a huge impact on the future.

European citizens’ confidence in political institutions has marked a drop from 50% in 2009 to 30% in 2013, in this way demonstrating the negative impact of austerity policies on the lives of the most vulnerable. "They are paying for the consequences of this crisis," said secretary general of Caritas Europa Jorge Nuño. This has led to an increase in the rate of depressive disorders, alcohol abuse and suicides in Spain and Greece since the beginning of the crisis. The lack of social services worsened by austerity measures and the increasing poverty of the middle class has also exacerbated one of the most tragic problems of the financial crisis.

The report's conclusions contradict the official line suggesting that the worst of the economic crisis is over. It also argues that there is no evidence that the situation is improving for many people, especially bearing in mind the situation in the streets of Athens – in the past, only people with psychological problems and drug addicts were homeless. Now the streets are inhabited by people who once belonged to the middle class, many of whom are university graduates or owners of companies destroyed by the crisis. The only factor which made them “homeless” was unemployment.

The most affected people are those over 40, many of whom have no family to help them. When markets close, retired and unemployed people gather there in order to pick up discarded vegetables and fruit. The main problem is that Greece does not recognize that homeless people are at risk of social exclusion and that is why there are no appropriate policies in order to combat the problem.

Tags: Poverty crisis austerity measures homeless people Greece European Union unemployment childhood poverty rate
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