Whenever there is mention of Italy, one is usually prompted to daydream to the romantic capital of Rome, to splendid and sunny Sicily, or even to the venerable Vatican. Seldom does poverty come to mind – thus, it may come as a surprise that Italy has, in fact, the highest amount of impoverished children in Europe—in which it is also the third largest economy.
As many as two million children are estimated to live below the poverty line in Italy, many of whom never even get the chance to attend school; those who do, on the other hand, often drop out to pursue a minimum wage job. Sex trade is, furthermore, rather common here, while access to hot water and other basic amenities is not.
According to UNICEF, a staggering one in two children in Italy live in “absolute poverty,” their parents unable to supply them with even the simplest of items such as Band-Aids. The aforementioned Sicily, a population tourist destination for its beaches, tanning and shopping, houses 32 percent of the poorest of Italy’s population. There is also a pressing lack of public child care services, which reportedly receives but 1.1 percent of the country’s total GDP. The ongoing economic crisis has only fostered these issues; however, UNICEF, among other concerned organizations, deems the country’s inattentiveness to its children’s futures as detrimental to the entire nation as a whole.
The divide among wealth is particularly evident within the northern and southern regions, the latter being the poorest area. Notably, the majority of sick children, regardless of origin, receive treatment in northern facilities, indicating the lack of- and poor quality of such in the south.
Moreover, in a study conducted in 2013, it was determined that a total of nearly five million Italians (or eight percent of the entire country’s population) live in absolute poverty. Despite Italy being filled with sunshine the year round (unlike some other countries in Europe, such as the ever-successful Sweden,) it is evidently one of the most unhappy nations out there. In this year’s World Happiness Report – surveying 156 countries – Italy places in at 45; while the United States (considerably bigger and more diverse, thus expected to do worse statistically rather than better than Italy,) comes in at 17.
Although nine out of 10 of the world’s poorest countries are currently located in Africa, and although Asia and India are other regions that are highly impacted by poverty, Italy, often perceived as luxurious and comparatively well-off, is also in current need of aid. It is suffering and while not being third-world, certainly remains below the current acceptable quality-of-life level, particularly so in Europe.
– Natalia Isaeva