Research suggests that child and youth poverty in the EU is of significant concern. In light of this fact, several organizations are taking action to address the issue.
Youth Poverty in the EU
Eurostat research shows that young Europeans face a higher risk of experiencing poverty than the population as a whole. Whereas in 2021, about 20% of people aged 15-29 faced a risk of falling into poverty, and this risk stood at 17% for the EU population overall. Since 2010, the at-risk poverty rate for the age group 15-29 has remained higher than that of the general population, but the difference between these rates has decreased since hitting a peak in 2016.
In particular, Denmark notes the greatest discrepancy, with 25.6% of youth at risk of poverty in 2021 compared to 12.3% of the total population. On the opposite spectrum, Latvia, Malta, Estonia and Croatia reported significantly smaller gaps and the Czech Republic had the lowest percentage of children and youth at risk of poverty in the EU.
Eurostat data reveals that in 2021, Romania (23.1%), Bulgaria (18.7%) and Greece (14.2%) had the highest percentages of severely materially and socially deprived youth aged 15-29. For the general EU population, this rate stood at about 6%.
Eurostat also clarified that 11 of the 26 European Union members with data had a rate of less than 3%. These countries include Luxembourg, Poland, Sweden, Cyprus, Czechia, Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Finland, Austria and Estonia.
Youth platform YPulse says inflation, higher costs of energy, slow income growths and global supply chain problems have impacted “living standards and spending habits of young Europeans,” making food insecurity, poverty and homelessness a more significant issue. Young Europeans have to resort to meeting only some of their basic needs instead of all due to these issues.
Child Poverty in the EU
The aid organization Save the Children reported in March 2023 that more than 200,000 children in the EU faced the risk of falling into poverty. This brings the total number of European children at risk of poverty to almost 20 million, or every fourth child, largely due to higher costs of living and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, about 2 million children residing in Germany endured poverty. Romania and Spain noted the worst statistics on children at risk of poverty or social exclusion at 33.4% and 41.5% respectively. Poverty and social exclusion rates among children appeared less intense in Finland and Denmark at 13.3% and 14% respectively.
Save the Children notes that the conflict in Ukraine has caused food prices to sore, making it more difficult for families to secure their food needs. The organization reports that “children with migrant backgrounds, refugees, asylum-seekers, undocumented and unaccompanied children are among the hardest hit. ” Additionally, “children living in single-parent families, large-disadvantaged families, children with disabilities [and] children belonging to ethnic minorities were also at risk.”
Tackling Child and Youth Poverty in the EU
The European Commission and UNICEF started a three-year commitment called the European Child Guarantee Phase III program in seven countries across the continent to resolve child poverty and social exclusion. The program came to a close in April 2023.
UNICEF’s website highlights the program’s impacts. “In Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Italy, the pilot [program] helped reach more than 30,000 children and young adults and 16,000 caregivers dealing with vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities, children living in precarious family situations, children residing in institutions and refugee and migrant children.”
The program participants received assistance in the form of “early childhood education and care; inclusive education and school-based activities and nutrition; health care and family support [as well as] care and protection services,” UNICEF highlights.
Through the commitment of organizations and governments, there is hope that child and youth poverty can reduce, and Europe’s future young people can experience a life that is poverty-free.
– Klaudia Laura Sebestyen