First Caritas Report on Poverty in Europe

Highlights Chronic Situations and Feminization of Poverty

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, FEB. 11, 2002 ( Increases in «chronic poverty» and the feminization of poverty are common denominators of European countries, the first Caritas report on a continental scale concludes.

The Report on Poverty in Europe, presented here Friday, includes an analysis of the situation in 43 European countries, as well as policy recommendations to the European Union, and to each of the countries.

According to the document, among the rich countries (the majority are members of the EU), Italy has the highest percentage of poor (14.2%), followed by Great Britain (13.4%). Belgium and Finland have the lowest rate (5.2% each).

Among non-EU countries, the Russian Federation has the highest percentage of poor (20.1%). Those with the lowest income among all countries are Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The unequal distribution of resources is most evident in Great Britain, where 20% of the rich control 43% of the resources, while 29% of the poor must manage with 6.6%.

The report was prepared with statistical studies available and information provided by each of the national Caritas organizations.

The feminization of poverty is another conclusion of the report. In EU countries, women earn 51.8% in relation to men´s salaries. The inequality is less marked in Great Britain (71.5% of men´s income). The highest inequality is in Malta (27.7%).

Long-term unemployment (longer than a year) is highest in Spain (8.1% of the labor force) but very low in Norway (0.2%).

Infant mortality and life expectancy were also analyzed. In Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Great Britain, it is 6 out of every 1,000 births. In Turkey and Albania, respectively, it is 40 and 29 out of every 1,000 births. Life expectancy is highest in Sweden (79.3 years), and lowest in the Russian Federation (66.1) and Moldova (66.6).

In 14 European countries (among them Austria, France, Germany and Great Britain) only the poverty of single parents is evident, especially women. In Austria, 47% of unemployed single parents live in conditions of «chronic poverty.»

In 17 countries, the poorest fringe of society are the elderly, due to very low pensions. In Bulgaria, the social pension is $40 a month, half the basic cost of living. In Ukraine, 30% of the elderly are below the poverty line and have no right to free health care. Here, the average pension is $12 a month.

The report classifies immigrants among the poorest. It criticizes «a hostile and highly bureaucratized system» in connection with those requesting political asylum.

In Europe, the refugee movement especially affects areas of former Yugoslavia. There are, for example, 625,800 Bosnians scattered in 40 countries.

Special attention is given to the gypsy population. There are 8 million in Europe, many of whom live in Romania (1.8 million to 2.5 million) and in Bulgaria (700,000 to 800,000).

«The report hopes to show the face of poverty in Europe and begin a discussion on the implementation of effective social policies to help the weakest fringes of the population, not only in the member states of the EU but also in the candidate countries and in those that have not requested admittance,» the secretary-general of Caritas-Europe, Bruno Kapfer, explained at a press conference.

«Even in EU countries, the lack of social protection for the weakest classes is surprising,» said Francesca Vencato, who is responsible for Caritas-Europe´s social policies. «In non-candidate Eastern countries, there is a total desert of social aid.»

Consequently, the report calls for «greater financial solidarity among the EU member countries, the candidate countries, and those that are not» and the implementation of social policies in favor of employment, health and education, including aid and facilities for families in difficulty, single parents, the elderly and immigrants.

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