The vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion spreads fast engulfing more children

Conference in the European Parliament on combatting poverty and social exclusion, (European Parliament Audiovisual).

Conference in the European Parliament on combatting poverty and social exclusion, (European Parliament Audiovisual).

According to a Eurostat study on people at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion (AROPE), the ongoing economic and financial crisis has seriously affected the relevant indicators. Eurostat is the statistical service of the European Union. AROPE is the headline indicator to monitor the EU2020 Strategy poverty target. According to Euroastat it reflects the share of the population which is either at risk of poverty, or severely materially deprived or lives in a household with very low work intensity.

Obviously the economic crisis has affected negatively many social groups and entire countries by increasing their AROPE indicator. This is evident in countries like Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Estonia. The largest increases in AROPE since 2008 were recorded in Ireland {+11.0 percentage points (pp) up to 2010} and Latvia (+10.4pp). They were closely followed by Bulgaria (+7.6pp), Hungary (+6.2pp) and Estonia (+5.4pp). At the same time the AROPE indicator for children (age 0-17) in Lithuania and Greece exceeded 30%. For those last two countries this means that almost one out of every three children is caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion.

Worst hit countries

Unquestionably the current crisis and the severe austerity economic policies applied to confront it, have affected badly the indicators of the EU2020 Strategy poverty target. This however doesn’t seem to be taken into account by the decision makers in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and elsewhere. Politicians and dignitaries while discussing the reasoning behind the draconian austerity programmes imposed on Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and practically all over the EU don’t make the slightest mention on the regression of the 2020 social strategy indices,  due to the crisis and the policies enforced.  On the contrary when it is politically convenient, they advertise the setting of those social targets. Then they forget them.

Coming back to the findings of the study the basic conclusion is that children of 0-17 years of age are the most prone to AROPE risks. In detail “In 2011, 27.0 % of children (aged 0-17) in the EU-27 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) compared to 24.3 % of adults (18-64) and 20.5 % of the elderly (65 or over). Concerning types of households with dependent children, single parents (49.8 %), two adults with three or more dependent children (30.8 %) and three adults or more with dependent children (28.4 %) had the highest AROPE rates.

Who suffers most

The writers also observe that “Children growing up in poverty and social exclusion are less likely to do well in school, enjoy good health and realise their full potential later in life, when they are at a higher risk of becoming unemployed and poor and socially excluded”. Consequently in this period of crisis the increased risks for higher AROPE for children will act as an inherited drawback, for a growing number of people in the future generations.

Consequently the effects of the ongoing recession not only hurt more the people in the vulnerable social groups, but their present handicap will continue to act as a drawback in the future for an ever-growing percentage of the population. It will take many years of fast and strong economic growth and low unemployment to arrest this vicious cycle. Given that such a prospect is out of question in the foreseeable future, then it is certain that the cycle of poverty and exclusion will continue engulfing more and more people.

The study has also identified the social groups with high risk of poverty and exclusion. “With respect to monetary poverty, more than 45% of low to very low work intensity (unemployment) households with dependent children are at risk of poverty. Moreover, 49.2% of children whose parents’ highest level of education was low were at risk of poverty compared to 7.5 % of children whose parents’ highest level of education was high. Children with a migrant background were at a greater risk of poverty than children whose parents were native-born.”

In short the curse of poverty and social exclusion is an inheritable characteristic, exactly the same way as it happens with the wealth in the affluent families. By the same token the prolongation of the present crisis by affecting more people in the vulnerable groups today, will lead to even higher AROPE index in the future, widening not only the impoverishment in  the present generation of children, but in this way bound to affect more and more people in the future. It is a certainty that an ever-increasing number of adults and children will be caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion always claiming more persons in every new generation.

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