European South suffers from poverty and social exclusion
by Martin Foehler and Alberto Paez
It is certain that the European Commission and decision-makers in Europe have completely forgotten that yesterday (i.e. October 17) was the International Day Against Poverty. If it is not the case, there might be some kind of blatant irony, as the same day Eurostat published its annual findings on poverty and social exclusion in Europe. Few are the member-states that have slightly decreased their rates, comparing to 2008, with most of them seeing relevant rates increased.
The European South holds for another time the most worrying results, with Greece ranked first as the member-state with the highest increase of people finding themselves at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with almost 800,000 more counted during these seven years.
There is little indication that decision-makers in Europe are succeeding their 2020 objective to lift 20 million people from poverty, as between 2008-2016 there was no change in the average rate for EU28 (i.e. it remained at 23.7%).
Poverty and social exclusion are linked with a number of factors, such as material deprivation, work intensity, unemployment. These factors define the final poverty rate, which in the European South seems to follow the same, negative trend. This is one of the major reasons why member-states of the Mediterranean region eagerly try to foster a common alliance against austerity politics, reverse the economic and social downfall, and push for a growth-oriented model.
Disappointingly enough, there is no indication that Europe, and especially Eurozone, is returning to its pre-crisis level. After six years of austerity, with average growth rates below 2%, with the European Central Bank incessantly soaring the economies and keeping interest rates at low levels, it seems that there is not much to be done in this context to improve macroeconomic factors. National governments need to address growing grievances, especially stemming from these social groups that are most affected by the financial crisis, strengthen pillars of social state, and agree on more flexible financial policies.
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Martin Foehler and Alberto Paez are Policy Analysts at Bridging Europe.