More than one in four children in Europe are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, which will have repercussions for them throughout life. On Monday 23 November MEPs debate a report urging EU countries to boost their efforts to combat child poverty and social inequalities. They will then vote on the report the following day.
A problem in every country
Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children should be guaranteed the right to education, health care services, housing, leisure and a balanced diet. Yet in Europe things look rather different. According to Eurostat, about 26 million children (anyone under 18) were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2014. This represents 27.7% of all children in the EU.
Children living in poverty can be found in every EU country, even if percentages vary. Children are at greatest risk of poverty in Romania (51%), Bulgaria (45.2%) and Hungary (41.4%), whereas the percentage is much lower in countries such as Denmark (14.5%), Finland (15.6%), Sweden (16.7%).
UK and Ireland are doing worse than the EU average of 27.7% with 31.3% and 33.9% (figure for 2013) respectively.
The problem of malnutrition among children is also growing in Europe. According to Unicef, the percentage of children who cannot afford to eat meat or fish every second day has doubled in Estonia, Greece and Italy since 2008.
Poverty is not only a question of money. Besides the inability of covering basic needs of children such as food, clothing and housing, poverty is also linked to social exclusion and the lack of access to quality health and education. Children living with single parents, especially single mothers, are also at a greater risk of poverty.
MEPs debate Monday a report calling on EU countries to make children a priority in their policies. They vote on it the following day.
Report author Inês Cristina Zuber, a Portuguese member of the GUE/NGL group, said: “Austerity policies created this situation and it has been getting worse.” She added that member states should ensure access to education, health and social security services for children and their families as well as tackle unemployment, promote job security, a balanced nutrition and adequate housing.
Photo: European Parliament