One fifth of children in Europe are living in poverty, according to a new report from an Irish think-tank.
Social Justice Ireland on Monday published Europe After Covid: Reversal or Renewal, which found almost 15.8 million children in the EU-27 are at risk of poverty.
According to the research, child poverty rates were highest in Romania (30.1 per cent), Bulgaria (28.3 per cent), Spain (27.4 per cent), Italy (25.1 per cent) and Luxembourg (23.1 per cent). The child poverty rates were lowest in Hungary, Denmark, and Slovenia, all of which had rates between 9.5 and 10.5 per cent.
The greatest improvements in risk of poverty among children from 2019 to 2020 occurred in Belgium, followed by Sweden and Lithuania.
The greatest disimprovements in risk of poverty among children during the same time period occurred in Ireland, Germany and Austria.
Risk of poverty is defined as people who have an equivalised disposable income below the risk-of-poverty threshold, which is often set at 60 per cent of the national median disposable income.
Childhood severe material deprivation stood at 5.6 per cent in 2020, the report found, meaning almost 6.9 million children in the EU-27 were experiencing a severe lack of resources.
Poverty particularly affects families where parents could not benefit from an extensive education, the report added.
Children were strongly affected by the economic crisis and the rate of poverty or social exclusion they experience continues to be higher than for the general population.
Dr Seán Healy, chief executive of Social Justice Ireland, said no child should grow up in poverty in the EU and “we are consistently failing to achieve this outcome”.
“The fact that such very high numbers of children continue year-on-year to experience poverty is a big concern and has long-term consequences for the people and families concerned, as well as for the EU as a whole,” he said.
“Those people were already in a difficult situation before the pandemic and were among the hardest hit. Now they face rising inflation which is further eroding their standard of living. Unlike in 2008, they must be protected if Europe is to achieve a real and lasting social and economic recovery”.
Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst at the think tank, said that despite improvements in recent years, childhood poverty “remains a pressing problem because of its long-lasting effects”.
“The dangers of ongoing high levels of child poverty, social exclusion and deprivation are very serious. Poverty tends to persist over time and be transmitted across generations, which means that children born into poverty bear a higher risk of poverty in adult life than the average population.
“Access to affordable quality early childhood education and care, along with well-designed work-life balance policies, is key to improving children’s life prospects, while at the same time supporting the labour market participation of their parents, notably mothers. The ability to tackle the challenges of child poverty and youth exclusion will be decisive in Europe’s capacity to guarantee a long-term future to its citizens.”