Belfast Telegraph

Poverty trend 'extremely worrying'

One in four Europeans are at risk of poverty, a new study on the effects of austerity has warned.

The research revealed the number of EU citizens in danger of living below the breadline jumped by seven million to 123 million in the six years to 2013.

Social Justice Ireland, which compiled the report for advocacy organisation Caritas Europa, said it found 8.4 million people were added to dole queues in the same period and about one quarter of young people who wanted to work could not find a job.

Using economic indicators from 28 European Union states from 2013, the report revealed 7.3 million 15-24-year-olds were classified as Neets - Not in Employment, Education or Training, including 16% of young people in Ireland, 22% in Italy - the highest rate in the EU - and 21% in Greece.

Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst with the Social Justice Ireland think-tank, said society pays a high price for high rates of youth unemployment.

"This level of young people not in education, employment or training across Europe is extremely worrying, especially when you consider the long-term scarring effects of early unemployment," she said.

"The negative impact on lifetime earnings is most pronounced for young people who experience periods of unemployment."

Other key findings from the research included:

:: Greece had the highest unemployment rate for under 25s in the EU in 2013 at 58%, followed by Spain with 56% and Ireland at 27%.

:: Nearly two-thirds of unemployed people in Ireland are classed as long-term unemployed in 2013, not far behind Greece on 71%, Italy 59% and Portugal 58%.

:: Greece had the second-highest child poverty rate in the EU-28 countries in 2013 at 29%. In Ireland the figure was more than one in every six children.

Social Justice Ireland said the findings could be addressed by European leaders adopting policies to ensure a guaranteed minimum income for everyone, by tackling tax evasion and implementing fair taxation, including for large corporations and targets being set to reduce poverty in vulnerable groups like young people, immigrants, the elderly and disabled.

Looking back further, Social Justice Ireland estimated that in 2011 the lack of jobs and training for young people cost the economy across Europe 158 billion euro (£114 billion).

Dr Sean Healy, director of the think-tank, said: "This report confirms that a key role of social policy is to help individuals and families cope with the consequences of economic shocks, and to prevent temporary problems from turning into long-term disadvantage. Social welfare supports in Ireland provide a minimum floor to protect families against poverty. But these supports do not allow people to live in dignity, let alone flourish and participate actively in our economy."

He added: "One in six children in Ireland, over one in four children in Greece and almost one in three children in Romania are at risk of poverty. This is totally unacceptable in modern democratic societies.

"The European Commission aims to lift 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020. European practices are failing to match European rhetoric."

Social Justice Ireland, a Dublin-based think-tank and advocacy group, compiled the report using data supplied by the Caritas Europa which has a network of 49 organisations in 46 countries.

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