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Precarious finances: 38% of Europeans no longer eat three meals a day

A man walks in east London, backdropped by high rise buildings at the Canary Wharf financial district.
A man walks in east London, backdropped by high rise buildings at the Canary Wharf financial district. Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Sudesh Baniya
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More than half of Europeans say their budget has tightened over the past three years, according to a recent study.

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Rising prices have pushed almost one-third of Europeans into a "precarious" financial situation, a recent survey has found. 

The second European Barometer on Poverty and Precariousness examined Europeans' ability to make purchases and found that it has declined over the past three years, forcing a majority of them skip meals and resort to making difficult financial choices. 

Of the 10,000 surveyed by Ipsos for French Secours Populaire, 29% said their financial situation was "precarious" and any unexpected expense would make their balance tip. 

Nearly one in two Europeans think that they face a high risk of falling into a precarious situation in the next few months, succumbing to rising prices and relatively stagnant pay. The 2021 at-risk-of-poverty rate for the total population of the EU stood at 17%, as per Eurostat.

Only 15% said they were confident and did not feel the need to pay attention to their everyday expenses. 

Difficult finances force complicated choices

A vast majority of Europeans have already had to compromise on their choices due to difficult financial conditions, according to the survey results. 

Rampant inflation in almost every sector forced these "complicated choices," which include skipping a meal despite being hungry. Almost one in three Europeans said they have skipped a meal when hungry – with Greece and Moldova having particularly high numbers.

Other compromises include not turning heaters on, borrowing money and not treating a health problem in the face of the rising costs.

A survey conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in June found 5.7 million low-income households in the UK lacking enough money for food, which it called a "horrendous new normal".

From only being able to buy food which is discounted to turning to food banks run by large associations to feed themselves, rising food prices have had varied – yet sizable – effects on food habits, according to the survey.

Of the people surveyed, 38% say they are no longer able to have three meals a day on a regular basis, while only 42% said they have never skipped their breakfast, lunch, and dinner due to financial constraints. 

The severity of the situation was reflected in a number of parents' answers with some saying they have had to limit their own eating to provide for their children. 

21% of the parents surveyed said they have experience at least one instance of "not eating enough" in order to feed their offspring. 

Majority worried about coping with inflation

Although rising inflation figures have, in fact, started to stall, increased food and ingredient prices have not yet fallen, hence the continued, diminished ability to buy produce. 

Europe’s inflation figures tripled in 2022, marking the highest growth rate of all time on the back of towering consumer prices for housing, water, gas, and other charges - which increased by 18% in a year.

Not only did many Europeans say their financial condition was extremely difficult, but also admitted that they were at the knife edge when it came to dealing with inflation.

Over half of those questioned, across most countries, said they were worried about coping with inflation, fearing an increase in food, energy, and miscellaneous expenses.

According to the study, 62% worry about soaring food prices, while unexpected expenses and gas prices worry 59% of the surveyed population.

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