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Child Poverty Massively Increases through EU Austerity Programs

by Ralf Streck Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 at 6:45 AM

Caritas warns "lost generations" are growing up in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. The Cairitas study blames the austerity programs for the impoverishment of children. A new prioritization and an even distribution of the burdens of the debt crisis are demanded.


Caritas warns “lost generations” are growing up in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland

by Ralf Streck

[This article published on 2/16/2013 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

More and more children in Europe's crisis countries go to school hungry, Caritas declared for crisis countries like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. The study [1] by “Caritas Europe” analyzed the effects of the crisis in Europe on children and came to dramatic conclusions. Referring to data of the EU commission, the catholic relief organization notes that a third of all children in these countries on average live in poverty or at the edge of poverty.

A generation of poorly nourished young persons are now growing up in Europe with pessimistic spirits and fateful future prospects, the union of 49 organizations from 46 countries discovered. After the study's publication, Jorge Nuno-Mayer hopes the description of the worsening situation will lead to a change of course. He criticizes [2] the past crisis policy. Politics must take “appropriate measures to deal with the crisis.”

There are several examples that children are often without adequate food in countries where massive austerity conditions were imposed in the context of bailout measures. Many school cafeterias in Portugal stayed open over Christmas because otherwise children would have had little or nothing to eat. Thousands of pupils received at least a meal over the holidays. In Greece, coupons for milk, fruits and other food will be distributed in schools, the education ministry announced. Spectacular cases caused a sensation again and again when famished children passed out in schools.

The Caritas study blames the austerity programs for the impoverishment of the children. In Germany and Spain in 2011, 30 percent of children under 18 suffer under poverty or at the poverty line. This is an increase of four percentage points since 2005. A similar percentage suffer in Portugal and Italy while nearly 40 percent of children in Ireland are stricken by poverty.

Harsh austerity programs often fuel rising unemployment which often goes along with a dramatic impoverishment that faces the vast wealth of billionaires. There is mostly no income support according to the German model. In Spain, two million persons do not receive any state support any more [3] because the unemployment benefits are used up and the social money introduced in the crisis was discontinued after six months. In Greece, almost 27 percent of the population is already jobless and in Spain over 26 percent. The situation clearly deteriorated in 2012 in all crisis countries which is not shown in the Caritas study.

For the former European parliamentarian Deidre de Burca, the report shows [4] “children have the greatest poverty risk.” That poverty has very harsh effects on children is clear for the Irish director of social policy for Caritas Europe. Children suffer because of the cancellation of social benefits, cuts in unemployment benefits, tax hikes and measures taking away families' purchasing power. These measures had “extremely negative effects on persons in need of protection,” Caritas summarized. Many were “driven into poverty for the first time.”

The austerity programs failed, Caritas shows, since poverty expands and crisis countries cannot really reduce their deficits. A new prioritization and an even distribution of the burdens of the debt crisis are demanded. The organization warns forcefully: “This could be a prescription for several lost generations in Europe, not only one lost generation.” The EU must take counter-measures since studies demonstrate poverty weakens performance in school and later has negative effects on the working life. For a long while, massive hopelessness spread among young persons in crisis countries. In Greece and Spain, 60 percent are without a job and between 30 and 40 in Portugal, Italy and Ireland. The EU is urged to assume leadership and take measures against child poverty and youth unemployment.


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