Contrary to what might be expected, young people – and not old people and pensioners – are most severely affected by economic poverty and social exclusion, according to findings published in the 2017 Report on youth poverty and social exclusion titled “Future in the past”, presented by Caritas Italy in Rome on November 17. “Sons are worse off than their parents, grandchildren are worse off than their grandparents.” That’s why, “the future of numerous Italian young people is not serene,” said Caritas, which already last year pointed to the fact that young people – and refugees – were the new poor.
“The younger they are, the higher the poverty-risk”, is the sad picture presented by Caritas.
One in ten Italian youths live in extreme poverty. Over the past decade the poverty-rate among young people (18-34 years-old) rose from 1.9 to 10.4%.
A decrease in poverty was registered in over-65 citizens – from 4.8% in 2007 to 3.9% in 2016. There emerges that “compared to the past, the social bracket most direly hit by economic poverty and social exclusion are no longer old people and pensioners but the young.” Thus, “while in the years prior to the economic crisis the most disadvantaged group was made of old people, for the past decade young people (under 34) have been living the most critical conditions, much more alarming that the situation of the over-65 population a dozen of years ago.” The situation of children is reason for the greatest concerns: as many as 1.292 million live in extreme poverty (12.5% of all poor). The most severe conditions were registered in households with three or more minors, representing 26.8% of the population hit by extreme poverty, involving over 138 thousand families and over 814 thousand individuals. A wide gap separates the number of poor people in only-foreigner (25,7%) and mixed households (27,4%) from only-Italian households (4,4%).
Young Italians in worse situations than their European peers. Youth poverty in Europe affects over 15 million in the age group 16-24 (27.3% of the overall number of poor people). In this respect Italy registered a strong increase in youth poverty: in 2015 1.995 million youths were at risk of poverty and social exclusion (they were 1.732 million in 2010, with 223 thousand more youths living in poverty, amounting to a 12.9% increase). According to the Report
33.7% of Italian youths are at risk of poverty and social exclusion
(6.4% more compared to the rest of Europe). In absolute terms, Italy is the third EU Country with higher rates of young people living in difficulty. While the negative record was registered in Spain – with 300 thousand more poor youths in only 5 years -, some Countries have successfully countered the phenomenon of youth poverty, such as Poland (328thousand less poor people), France (-321thousand) and Germany (-236thousand).
Higher rates of absolute poverty. The negative trend continued in 2016 in Italy, marked by increased numbers of poor people. According to Caritas, 4.742 million Italians (7.9% of inhabitants) live in absolute poverty, as many as 1.619 million families, (6.3% of all households). Thus, “over the past decade the poverty-rate has increased by 165.2%”
Four social brackets are the most disadvantaged: young people (under 34), unemployed or families whose breadwinner is “a factory worker or treated as such”, families with children and households of foreigners or mixed. With these figures, states the Report, “Italy moves further away from the EU 2020 target”, envisaging a reduction in the total number of poor people, amounting to 2.2 million by 2020. Italian citizens at risk of poverty and social exclusion – according to Eurostat figures for the year 2015, the most recent data available – amount to 17.469 million (28.8% of the overall population). Approximately 117 European citizens (23,3% of the overall population) were in the same conditions in EU27. “Both Italy and the rest of Europe are still way behind the set target”, Caritas underlined.
A 40% increase in counselling centres. In 2016, 205.090 people received counselling and assistance in 1,801 Counselling Centres (CdA) set up in 180 Italian dioceses, for which data is available. Exception made for the two Counselling Centres in Ventimiglia, whose activity focuses on support to migrants headed to France,
As in previous years, the number of men (50.8%) and women (49.2%) seeking help in a Counselling Centre remained the same, with a mean age of 43.6. Youths aged 18-34 represent 22.7% of the total: figures dropped to 10.7% among the Italian population while among foreign residents it amounted to 31.5%. In absolute terms regarding the number of household members, traditional families in wedlock with children are the largest group (35,0%), followed by single-member households (25.7%), registering a sharp increase compared to 2015. Also the homeless, representing 17.8% of the total, registered an increase compared to 2015. As in the previous years, in 2016 the most frequent needs were a result of economic poverty (76.7%), followed by employment difficulties (56.8%), lack of housing (24.1%) and family problems (14.0%). Moreover, only 39.7% of those helped by Counselling Centres sought assistance for just one problem. They asked for food, clothing, access to soup-kitchens, personal hygiene services, economic subsidies to pay their bills/taxes, rent, or for healthcare expenses.
The commitment of the Church. In 2016 Caritas Italy worked in conjunction with 125 diocesan Caritas Centres in the presentation, assessment and approval of 191 projects to combat poverty across the Country.
Over 16 million Euro were devolved by the Italian Bishops’ Conference through the “Eight-per-thousand tax-devolution proceeds to charities nationwide”, to this sum must be added the economic contribution of the interested dioceses, amounting to slightly more than 5.2 million Euro, totalling over 21.5 million Euro. Families were the main recipients of these interventions (27.7% of all projects), homeless persons (16.7%), young people and minors (13.6%), immigrants (12.6%) and unemployed (10.5%). With respect to children and youths, Caritas projects – developed also without “Eight-per-thousand” funds – focused primarily on: minors at risk, reducing early school leaving and support to schooling; vocational training and professional re-qualification for ‘Neets’ and unemployed population; inclusion programs for refugees, addressing unemployment with refresher courses, work-study grants, internships. In this respect, the Report dedicates one of its three Focuses on the Policoro Project, through which the Church has been committed to developing communities and restoring dignity to labour for young people for the past twenty years.