In the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Northwest Africa, the beautiful landscapes often distract from the harsher reality of the community: high levels of poverty in the Canary Islands.
Poverty Statistics in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands has one of the highest poverty rates out of all of Spain’s regions. In 2012, the Canary Islands ranked “fifth out of 17 regions” for the highest levels of relative poverty. In 2013, unemployment levels reached 34%, higher than any other region of Spain, and 38% of residents were facing poverty. Child poverty in the Canary Islands is also high with almost 30% of children living in poverty in 2013, according to UNICEF. Poverty continues to persist in the region with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating the situation further. According to a survey that occurred in the last quarter of 2020, “3.3 million people in Spain” overall faced “a severe lack of necessary items.” However, 15.6% of respondents from the Canary Islands faced the greatest challenges in securing their basic needs until month-end, a percentage higher than that of any other region.
Social Exclusion and Migration
Poverty manifests itself through social exclusion, a lack of access to crucial opportunities and services, such as infrastructure, health care, education and social welfare. In 2018, almost 30% of the Canarian population endured social exclusion, with 334,000 people facing “severe social exclusion.” In addition, foreigners to the Islands face a greater risk of experiencing social exclusion.
The Canary Islands community has seen an uptick in migrants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, migrants usually traveled from sub-Saharan Africa to Mediterranean countries, but due to COVID-19 restrictions in these countries, their paths diverged, leading them to the Canary Islands instead. In 2020, approximately 23,000 migrants from Africa arrived on the Canary Islands’ shores. The pandemic-induced increase in both poverty levels and the migrant population places strain on the archipelago, where a lacking job market only becomes more competitive and health officials struggle to detect COVID-19 as migrants arrive. These migrants experience greater rates of social exclusion as more barriers stand in the way to the resources they need to survive.
A Solution to Spain’s Poverty Overall
In May 2020, the Spanish government gave its approval for “a minimum income scheme” to aid about 850,000 of the most impoverished households across the country, bringing positive impacts to around 2.3 million people overall. The Spanish government commits to providing eligible households with an income of between €462 ($514) and €1,015 ($1,130) per month. Government officials expect the program to decrease extreme poverty by 80% and lower high poverty rates by 60%. This initiative aids the Canary Islands as it is a region of Spain, but the program does not target poverty specifically in this area.
Looking ahead, more initiatives that directly impact the Canary Islands would best help improve the region’s circumstances of poverty. More targeted programs by national and local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, can help reduce poverty in the Canary Islands.