Monday

15th Oct 2018

EU bailouts: misery for old people, children, single mothers

  • Spanish protesters hold placards against house evictions (Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia)

Austerity policies imposed in bailed-out countries like Greece and Portugal are taking a high toll on the poorest and most vulnerable in society, a study published on Thursday (14 February) by the Catholic charity Caritas says.

Based on its field work in shelters and social programmes in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland, Caritas noted that by cutting funding for the most deprived and by raising taxes for people on low income, the "cohesion of Europe and the very political legitimacy of the European Union are being put at risk."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The report contradicts recent statements by EU and national leaders claiming that the worst of the euro-crisis is over and that economic recovery is on its way.

Turning large private debts of banks into public ones, as happened in Ireland and Spain "must be recognised as unfair and unsustainable," Caritas said, because the price is mostly paid by single unemployed mothers, retired people, some of whom can no longer afford medicine, and young people facing years of unemployment.

Case studies from Greece, where the charity recently expanded its aid from refugees to native Greeks, show that the drastic, EU-mandated cuts in public spending have undermined the idea of a social Europe.

The charity documents retired people seeking food and shelter, single unemployed mothers relying on the pensions of their parents and left with no income at all when their parents pass away and autistic children rejected from public day care centres.

In Portugal, where official statistics show rising rates of poverty, particularly among old people and children, Caritas also found public spending cuts affect the most vulnerable.

Cases discussed in the survey include children - evicted from houses when their parents are unable to pay the mortgage - who drop out of school and try to pick up a job on the black market or in agriculture.

They also include older people who see their pensions frozen, while costs for healthcare, electricity, gas and food go up, making it particularly hard for those living in remote areas.

A new wave of discrimination against Roma is also a problem in Portugal, especially when it comes to housing, education or getting a job.

"The crisis is not well understood by many people, leaving those affected without hope. For many of the families that Caritas Portugal is supporting, it is their first time having to seek help outside their family," Caritas says.

In Spain, the country with the highest unemployment rate in the EU, calls for help from the charity have increased by 170 percent since the start of the crisis.

People seeking help lack money to pay for food and utility bills. Cutbacks in funding for school meals raise concerns about malnutrition and general cuts in education increase the rate of school drop-outs - already double the EU average (26.5% compared to 13.5%).

Tensions within families are also increasing, as people "have to rely on family members for essential needs like never before."

The report was drafted based on available data last year.

But further austerity measures have since been adopted in Spain, including more reductions to welfare and VAT hikes.

"The impact of these measures on vulnerable groups is likely to be serious, given the high levels of unemployment and poverty already being experienced in Spain, and the finding that increases in VAT have already disproportionately affected poorer people," Caritas warns.

Meanwhile, new types of poverty are emerging in Italy.

Adults in their 40s and 50s are suddenly finding themselves out of a job after a lifetime of regular work, young people on temporary contracts are constantly on the hunt for new work, entrepreneurs are going bust, migrants are being suddenly cut off from social aid, while older people are having to help their jobless children and grandchildren.

As for Ireland, Caritas notes that "successive cuts to most welfare rates once the crisis began mean that most social welfare payments in Ireland are below the poverty line."

The problem is being aggravated by the fact Ireland is highly dependent on welfare payments to keep people out of poverty.

At 51 percent, Ireland, jointly with Hungary, has the highest poverty rate in the EU before social transfers and pensions are counted.

Caritas urged EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund, another bailout body, to take its findings into account before demanding further expenditure cuts.

The charity also called for "social monitoring" of bailed-out countries, with social impact assessments added to regular EU reports on compliance with EU fiscal targets.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

Investigation

How to get around the EU posted workers directive

Some EU careworkers in Belgium receive around €400 a month - despite their carers paying €2,500 a month and paying for flights and accommodation. The answer lies in how firms can skirt the safeguards in the EU's posted workers directive.

Feature

Resetting the gender balance through football

Many sports, like football, have been so heavily male-dominated at every level that women and girls have battled against poor odds to be treated as equals in the game. FIFA aims to change that.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen warms towards cooperation with Bannon
  2. Bettel set to stay in power in Luxembourg after election
  3. EU-UK Brexit deal talks paused
  4. Macedonian parliament to vote on name change Monday
  5. Swedish opposition leader gives up on forming government
  6. Commission confirms: no record of Juncker speech seminar
  7. Ukraine splits from Russian orthodox church
  8. Polish doctor wins landmark pro-life case in Norway

EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

The EU Commission has received several million responses from citizens, businesses, and organisations on whether to end the daylight summertime savings. Any tangible change would take ... time.

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it
  2. Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive
  3. It's time for the EU to stand up to transnational corporations
  4. Tug of war between 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' cohesion money
  5. 'Macron vs Orban' is no quick fix for EU democracy
  6. Brexit and sanctions at EU summit This WEEK
  7. EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants
  8. EU urged to seize assets of foreign hackers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us