Some six years ago the European Union set targets for an ambitious project called “The Europe 2020 Strategy”. Amongst other equally fallacious if not deceitful objectives, the leaders of the 28 EU member states undersigned the Commission’s proposal to “lift 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020”. No need to say that in 2013 a good 4.8 million more Europeans were living in poverty or social exclusion than in 2008.
On top of that, statistical figures show that in 18 out of the 28 EU member states children of up to 18 years of age are at a much greater risk of poverty and social exclusion than the overall population. It was not like that some years ago. However, it’s not only the overall picture that has darkened during the last six years. The same sources reveal that the divergence between the member states has also grown in the same time interval.
The usual suspects: the poor
Of course it’s the usual differentiation between the wealthy and the poor countries that has also grown lately. “More specifically, the proportion of children living in a household at risk of poverty or social exclusion ranges from around 15% in the Nordic countries to 35% or more in Lithuania, Greece, Latvia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.”
Most of the above mentioned data come from a landmark report entitled “Families in the economic crisis: Changes in policy measures in the EU”. The study is conducted and published by the Eurofound, which is a European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. This is a tripartite EU agency, whose role is to provide knowledge in the area of social and work-related policies.
The irrefutable statistics
Understandably, the basic data with which the Eurofound researchers worked on the study mentioned above come from Eurostat, the EU statistical service. Last October this newspaper presented detailed Eurostat research, a real almanac on poverty and social exclusion in the EU. The study was published by the EU Commission on 17 October, the ‘International Day for the Eradication of Poverty’. Regrettably, the Eurostat data supported exactly the opposite conclusion to the message of the day.
On the base of the above mentioned statistical ‘directory’ on poverty and social exclusion, the European Sting of 22nd October concluded that, “Unfortunately, the highly advertised recovery of the EU economy after the second quarter of 2013 didn’t change that”. It was more disturbing to find out that the percentage of population at risk of poverty or social exclusion was in 2014 above the 2008 levels even in affluent countries like Germany.
Of course, to a larger degree the same is true for the entire EU. The 2014 overall figure remained well above the 2008 levels, despite the ‘mild recovery’ of the EU economy, after the second quarter of 2013. The diversification between the affluent and the poorer member states is striking in this case also. In three southeastern countries, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece more than one third of the entire population in 2014 was at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The hardest hit
However, the Eurofound study came up with something more. The researchers concluded that the single parent and large families are generally more at risk of poverty and social exclusion. They once more came upon the fact of the striking divergence between poor and wealthy EU nations. For example a Bulgarian large family is more than thirteen times at risk of poverty and social exclusion than its Finnish counterpart. These findings are a not at all an encouraging development. The differences become growingly intolerable.
The single parent, usually single mother families are a rising part of the European population. Let alone the socio-economic reasons driving this phenomenon, its socio-economic repercussions are of equal importance. For one thing, single parent families are more prone to destabilization in a worsening economic environment and tend to rely more on social security benefits than a two parent household.
There are also consequences on the children who have lived at least a part of their childhood in a lone parent family. All that demands more attention from decision makers, not only on humanitarian grounds but mainly for the overall effectiveness and productivity of the economy-society. Judging from real facts, this attention so far was not at all effective, to say the least.
Who is paying the dearest price?
There is no doubt that the impact of the 2008-2010 financial crisis was quite severe on that part of society which is close or within the circle of poverty and social exclusion. Actually, it’s this part of the European society which paid the dearest price. Certainly the well to do percentage of people, being that in Bulgaria or in Belgium, paid their share of the crisis cost, but this didn’t touch their living conditions.
This is an unquestionable and dreadful deduction about the effects of the last financial crisis. Shamefully, those who are responsible for the economic calamities, in the business and government constellations, are very well aware of this fact. The quickly progressing income inequality attests to the fact that the welfare of the well off depends on the misery of the others.