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Spain through the looking glass

Childhood poverty a growing concern

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ImageChildhood poverty in Spain shot up by 45 per cent during the first two years of the economic crisis, a new study shows.

The study carried out by the Observatorio Social de España and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) reveals that Spanish children were among the hardest hit in Europe during the early days of the economic crisis from 2007 to 2009.

The authors of The Impact of the Crisis on Families and Childhood report found that a staggering 26 per cent of Spanish households with children were in a precarious financial position in 2009. For households without children, this number was 15.4 per cent.

The authors of the new study which tries to gauge the impact of the crisis on five EU countries also discovered that the destruction of male employment was particularly dramatic in Spain when the crisis kicked in. With relatively few social benefits available to families with children, many women were forced to take on the mantle of the main breadwinner. As a result, from 2007 to 2009 Spain saw a 6 per cent fall in the number of households where the man was working and the woman wasn’t actively seeking employment.

At the same time, the country witnessed a 3.5 per cent rise in the number of households where the woman was in employment and the man was receiving benefits.

During a presentation of the study in Barcelona on Tuesday (timed to coincide with the United Nations’ Universal Day of Children), UPF sociology professor Sebastià Saras said the situation in Spain had been aggravated by policies that aided the middle class and left the poor out in the cold. Saras said the lack of government policies aimed at reducing childhood poverty meant many children were now going without proper meals while some kids –especially those of immigrants from outside the European Union – were struggling to access healthcare.

Also during this seminar, study coordinator Mónica Clua-Losada said reductions in subsidies for meals in school canteens had seen many children going home for lunch and then simply not coming back afterwards. The result was increased levels of fracaso escolar, or kids flunking out.

Meanwhile OSE director Vicenç Navarr said Spain’s social spending per child was the lowest of all the 15 core EU nations and Saras added that the situation had clearly gotten worse in the intervening years.

In similar news, the NGO Save the Children said on Tuesday that some 2,226,000 Spanish children, or 27.2 per cent of all kids in the country, were now living below the poverty line.

Save the Children spokesperson Yolanda Román said that while the government recognised the seriousness of the situation, they were to yet to take on board UN recommendations and implement specific and convincing measures to eradicate childhood poverty.

The NGO also pointed out that recent spending cuts on the part of Rajoy’s government were harming the rights of children and this could lead to social exclusion and affect everything from children’s health to their education.

Save the Children went on to note that 82 per cent of all recent cases of Spanish families being forcibly evicted from their homes had involved families with children.

This morning, the UNICEF president for Valencia Bienvenida Guerrero said in a press conference that Spain’s institutions needed to think long and hard about the effect of their decisions on children. Referring in part to evictions of families from their homes, Guerrero added that the authorities needed to think about how to reduce the negative effects of policy choices on this vulnerable group.

The UNICEF president for Valencia concluded by stressing that children also had a right to give their opinions and participate in civic life.

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Written by georgemills25

November 21, 2012 at 15:35

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