Is there poverty in Europe?
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich.
John F. Kennedy
Europe is one of the richest regions in the world with a varied and complex economy and a high standard of living. Europe's wealth allows many of its citizens to enjoy high-quality health care, education and social assistance.
However, there are a huge number of citizens who cannot take part in this success story. According to estimates in the EU, around 84 million people are at risk for poverty and social exclusion.
Those Europeans who are classified as poor must survive with a family income that is below 60% of the national average. Around 23.5 million people in the European Union are to be treated with less than €10 per day. Compared to the world's poorest regions, it might seem like a significant amount of money, but the cost of living in the countries of the European Union should be considered. It is often not enough for these people to have the necessary means to ensure basic needs – housing, food, health care, education.
This marks another problem: the ability of existing statistics to reflect the true situation. Usually we measure poverty by the daily subsistence amount, but there is no sort of inventory that allows the comparison of what services or products are not available to the individuals concerned.
Through policy coordination, the EU has developed a strategy aimed at effective fight against poverty. It also provides the foundations and coordination to help Member States to create their own measures to combat poverty and social exclusion.
In most European countries, social assistance alone cannot save people from poverty. Member States are therefore encouraged to establish active inclusion and labor market policies, including by making available quality services combined with adequate minimum support.
The current common objectives are undoubtedly focused on action in areas such as the eradication of child poverty, the provision of people with jobs, the fight against discrimination and the handling of housing loss issues.
The lives of poor people can be changed to the right, by working together. Together, we can create a society and a Europe where every person lives a decent life.
Author: Aija Lokenbaha, LatConsul