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03 November, 2015

Nearly one-quarter of EU citizens at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion

While the South has to deal with the refugee waves, the gap between North and South grows. Things are getting worse for Europe.

Social Justice in the EU – Index Report 2015

Key findings:

  • Nearly one-quarter of EU citizens (24.6%) are currently regarded as being at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion – an extremely high and worrisome value. Measured against today’s total EU population, this corresponds to approximately 122 million people.

  • The gap between the northern European countries and the crisis-battered southern European countries remains enormous. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, the share of people threatened by poverty or social exclusion has increased once again in comparison to last year’s survey. In Greece, 36 percent of the total population is at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion. In Spain, this figure is above 29 percent. For children and youth, these shares are even higher. In Portugal, the poverty rate within the total population has risen to 27.5 percent.

  • In the great majority of EU member states, social conditions for children and youth have deterio rated since 2007/8, in some cases significantly. Even compared to last year’s survey, which marks the lowest point of developments to date, 13 countries have shown still-further deterioration with regard to life opportunities for young people. The situation particularly in the crisis-torn southern European countries of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain remains critical.

  • The fact that the risk of poverty among children and youth in some crisis-battered southern European countries has again increased in comparison to last year’s survey is very troubling. In Spain, 35.8 percent of children and youth are today at-risk-of poverty and social exclusion, while this rate is 31.7 percent in Portugal. In Greece, this ratio is an alarming 36.7 percent, while the share of children living under conditions of severe material deprivation has more than doubled from 9.7 percent in 2007 to today’s 23.2 percent. The figures are also alarming in Hungary: 41.4 percent of children there are regarded as being at-risk-of poverty and social exclusion. This share is higher only in Romania and Bulgaria, although the trend in these countries is on the decline. The poor performance of the United Kingdom is also striking. Here, 32.6 percent of people under the age of 18 are at-risk-of poverty and social exclusion.

  • EU-wide, 27.9 percent of children and young people are threatened by poverty or social exclusion, which is clearly more than in 2007 (26.4%). However, such EU-wide averages are always difficult to interpret due to the differing population sizes of each country. When we look exclusively at the increase of poverty in the four crisis countries Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, then the average poverty rate of these four countries together has risen by more than 5 percentage points: from 28.7 in 2007 to today’s 33.8 percent. In absolute numbers, this corresponds to an increase of 1.16 million children in these four countries alone.

  • In Spain and Greece, youth unemployment is still well over 50 percent, and in Italy it has even risen again, to a rate of 42.7 percent. In contrast to the southern European countries, the lowest NEET [not in education, employment or training] rates are found in the Netherlands (7.8%), Denmark (8.4%) and Germany (9.5%). Germany is the only country that has substantially improved in comparison to 2008.

  • The average level of national debt has risen from 62.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 to a current level of 87.7 percent. The crisis-battered southern European states of Portugal, Italy and Greece now carry debt loads of between 130 percent (Portugal) and 177 (Greece) percent of their annual economic output, even though budget deficits have been scaled back through the implementation of harsh austerity policies. In Cyprus, the public-debt level more than doubled between 2008 (44.7% of GDP) and 2014 (107.1%). The fiscal burdens for today’s young people as well as future generations in these countries are thus immense. At the same time, the average EU level of investment in research and development has not increased in comparison to last year’s survey.

Full Report:

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