Child poverty rising in five EU countries
Labour MEP for Leinster Nessa Childers at the Caritas briefing in the European Union office in Dublin. She said she was 'disturbed' by some of the measures the Government has introduced. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Child poverty rates have increased in five countries which are cutting their budget spending, including Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, a study has shown.
Rates of poverty among older people and lower income workers are also increasing in some states, according to the study by Caritas, a network of Catholic charities.
Unemployment among people under 25 was also high in these countries in comparison to the EU average.
The study showed a “man-made disaster” had been created and that austerity policies were not working, said Jorge Nuño Mayer, secretary general of Caritas. “It is about political choices and we strongly believe there are other choices,” he said at a briefing in Dublin.
Spain has the highest child poverty rate at 27.2 per cent, followed by Italy at 24.7 per cent, Greece at 23 per cent, Portugal at 20.5 per cent and Ireland at 19.7 per cent. The EU average is 20.5 per cent.
The youth unemployment EU average is 22.5 per cent. Greece is well above this at 55.4 per cent, followed by Spain at 52.9 per cent, Italy at 35.3 per cent, Portugal at 34.7 per cent and Ireland at 30.7 per cent.
Emigration had reduced the unemployment rate among young Irish people, said Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, an associate partner of Caritas.
He also said more recent figures had shown a worsening situation in Ireland for poverty rates, especially among low income workers. Ireland now had a poverty rate of 14.2 per cent among workers – the highest of the five countries studied.
These household were having to make difficult choices “between food and fuel in difficult winters” and with “parents going hungry” to feed their children and get them educated, he added.
Ireland and Cyprus were the only European countries last year which showed that the greatest impact of financial distress was seen among those with lower incomes, the study said.
Labour MEP for Leinster Nessa Childers said she was “disturbed” by some of the measures the Government has introduced and would be “challenging the Irish Labour Party to defend their values before the Irish people and not to be drawn into this type of agenda”.
She added: “Social democrats or centre-left parties have absolutely no business presiding over these kinds of policies. It destroys their legitimacy and the legitimacy of government."
Déirdre de Búrca, social policy officer at Caritas and former Green Party senator, said there was “willingness to go along with the logic of austerity” in the Labour Party which was similar to the “trajectory that the Green Party followed in imposing policies that we were uncomfortable with”.
She added: “I am watching with some dismay the role that the Labour Party is playing in Government at the moment because I see such clear parallels between what happened to the Green Party and is now happening to the Labour Party."