Poverty and Inequalities on the Rise People need fair solutions
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 16:51
Caritas Europa’s new report on the impact of the crisis reveals disturbing levels of poverty and deprivation in the seven EU countries worst hit by the economic crisis: Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

The EU and its Member States continue to address the ongoing crisis by focusing mainly on economic policies – at the expenses of social policies. As a result, the policies put in place are having a devastating impact on the people of Europe. The failure of the EU and its Member States to provide concrete support on the scale required to assist those experiencing difficulties, to protect essential public services, and to create employment, is likely to prolong the crisis.

The report is the 3rd annual edition in a series of in-depth examinations of the human impact that austerity policies are having on people in the EU. It also documents the growing number of people struggling with poverty and social exclusion (123 million in the EU, or 24%).

The report – entitled Poverty and Inequalities on the Rise – Just social systems needed as the solution! – depicts an unfair Europe, where social risks are increasing, social systems are being downsized and individuals and families are falling deeper into poverty. It shows a Europe where social cohesion is fading and where people’s trust in political institutions is increasingly weakening. This creates a risk for Europe on a greater, long-term scale, as racism, xenophobia and the spread of hate intensifies. Social unrest has risen by 12% in the last five years, higher than any other region of the world.

With the report, Caritas Europa strongly challenges the official discourse suggesting that the worst of the economic crisis is over. The crisis is not over. Social rights are clearly being challenged in Europe as a result of the economic crisis evolving into a social and increasingly more political crisis. Current political choices, eroding the social dimension of Europe, are having an extremely negative impact on vulnerable people. 

Main conclusions

After over 6 years of economic crisis poor people are still paying for a crisis they did not cause, and the poor are getting poorer.

  • Poverty and inequalities are increasing in Europe. 123 million EU citizens are living in poverty, almost 1 in 4.
  • More than 1/3 of the population in five EU Member States are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (i.e. Bulgaria 48%, Romania 40.4%, Greece 35.7%, Latvia 35.1%, and Hungary 33.5%).
  • 1 in 3 children, or more, live in poverty in 14 of the 28 EU countries
  • There are serious gaps in the social welfare systems of many European countries
  • The policy of prioritising austerity is not working for Europe. Caritas Europa suggests several alternative solutions be adopted.
The report’s conclusions are based on the unique grass-roots life testimonies that Caritas organisations witness through their work with the poor. 

 The Caritas Europa report concludes with clear recommendations towards major decision makers and stakeholders; EU-Institutions, national/regional authorities, and civil society organisations, including:

  • Ensure a guaranteed minimum income for all. Every national Government should have a mechanism to ensure all people receive an income sufficient to live in dignity.
  • Tackle tax evasion. Tax evasion must be tackled and fair taxation systems introduced in all sectors of society, including the corporate sector, in order to contribute a fair share. Those who can afford to contribute more should do so.
  • Invest in social policies. The provision of quality services (relative to housing, affordable childcare, education, skills enhancement, health, among others) reduces inequalities and creates jobs in the long-term.
  • Identify priorities, allocate adequate resources, and set targets and benchmarks to monitor their implementation. When deciding what policy approaches to use and who to target with them, authorities must base their decisions on fairness, justice, and common good of the entire population, ensuring protection of vulnerable groups.
Jorge Nuño Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europa says:
“We believe that Caritas Europa’s new report contributes to greater awareness of the impact the crisis is having on different vulnerable groups. It confirms calls for alternative policy solutions and reminds that politicians have choices when deciding which measures must be taken to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis. The Europe documented in this report is not just. The prioritisation of austerity measures has not solved the crisis but rather is causing social problems and unrest that risk having lasting impacts worldwide.”

For more information:

Thorfinnur Omarsson
Press and Information Officer
M: +32 (0)473341393