The extent of poverty in Europe comes under scrutiny in this edition of Utalk. The question is from Kristalina in Sofia, Bulgaria: “One EU citizen in four is said to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion. But what’s behind this figure?”
Barbara Helfferich, Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network responds:
“There are 124 million people in the European Union at risk of poverty.That’s a hell of a lot of people and it’s an unexpected number for many people I think.
“Poverty is not just about an income or a salary because a lot of people work and it’s called in-work poverty; they have two or three jobs and they still don’t have enough money to pay for school, housing and food.
“Then there are other concerns such as access to energy, to health services, what am I going to do with my children?
“And then there is the issue of social exclusion which is very much part of poverty. If a child grows up in poverty possibly he/she is socially excluded that means, for instance, in school he/she cannot go on a school trip, or he/she cannot go to the swimming pool (etc).
“Once you’re poor, it’s very difficult to struggle out of it. For us – the European Anti-Poverty Network – poverty is a political choice. It’s not a God-given thing. It is because politicians make certain decisions that (mean)these 124 million people live in poverty.
“So, what we’re calling for is an integrated approach to poverty. We need to have at least a minimum income, so nobody falls below the poverty line and nobody is at risk of poverty. We need a European action and that could be a type of ‘Marshall Fund’, which directs the money to people, to decent jobs and creates an economy that works for the people and not an economy that works against them.”
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