Child poverty rates have more than doubled in Greece since 2008, affecting two in every five children, the UN’s child agency has said, in a report that underlines the negative impact of austerity measures on children, particularly in the Mediterranean region..
A report (pdf) issued on October 28, as thousands of children were taking part in school parades across Greece, Unicef found that 40.5% of children in Greece were living households were income is below the poverty line in 2012, the highest rate in world’s 41 most affluent countries.
Unicef said that 2.6m children have sunk below the poverty line in these countries since 2008, bringing the total number of children in the “developed” world living in poverty to an estimated 76.5m.
In 23 of the 41 countries analysed, child poverty has increased since 2008, with Iceland experiencing the greatest jump, followed by Greece, Latvia, Croatia and Ireland, where the difference was more than 50% on pre-crisis levels.
In Greece’s case, the child poverty rate jumped 17.5 points, from 23% in 2008 to 40.5% in 2012. The country also witnessed a trebling in the proportion of children who are income poor and severely deprived.
The report said that in Greece and Spain, poor children were further below the poverty line in 2013 than they were in 2008. Children in migrant households were more adversely affected, with poverty rates increasing by 35 percentage points compared with 15 percentage points for all other children.
The report also found that the 2012 median Greek household incomes for families with children sank to 1998 levels – the equivalent of a loss of 14 years of income progress. In real terms, that meant that the since 2008, the percentage of households with children unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or a vegetable equivalent) every second day increased by 18% Greece in 2012.
The report provides evidence for the huge impact of the recession on young people extremely hard in Greece, which experienced the second-greatest increase in Neets (youth aged 15 to 24 not in education, employment or training) between 2008 and 2013, where the rate increased by almost 9 points to reach 20.6%.
“Many affluent countries have suffered a ‘great leap backwards’ in terms of household income, and the impact on children will have long-lasting repercussions for them and their communities,” said Jeffrey O’Malley, Unicef’s head of global policy and strategy.
“Unicef research shows that the strength of social protection policies was a decisive factor in poverty prevention. All countries need strong social safety nets to protect children in bad times and in good – and wealthy countries should lead by example, explicitly committing to eradicate child poverty, developing policies to offset economic downturns, and making child well-being a top priority,” O’Malley said.
The crisis in Greece through a child’s eyes
Recognising that the report does not fully capture how children’s views of their lives have changed, Unicef, in order to gain a deeper insight into the perspectives of children, commissioned an early analysis of the most recent Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey (2014) on the behaviour of 11-, 13- and 15-year-old students in Greece.
“The results are instructive. Despite the best efforts of families to insulate their offspring from the worst consequences of the recession, schoolchildren in Greece revealed that they are highly aware of problems that affect their immediate context,” Unicef said.
“Those reporting that their family’s economic situation is ‘not well off’ doubled from 7.2% in 2006 to 14.5% in 2014. An increasing share of them said that the economic situation of the area where they live had worsened (from 22.2% to 29.5% in the same period).
“In 2014, more than one child in five reported that at least one parent had lost their job, 5% said their family could not afford to buy food, and almost 30% reported that the family had stopped going on holiday trips. Around one student in ten had to stop tutoring sessions or had to move to another area or to a relative’s house, and 3% switched from private to public schools.
“The children surveyed were perceptive about other consequences of the recession, such as increased stress on parents from income cuts or job losses. These events affect family relationships, as seen in the large share (as high as 27%) of those reporting tension and fights within their families. The proportion of children reporting high satisfaction with relationships within the family dropped by 3% between 2006 and 2014. As for their overall life satisfaction, the share of children reporting a high quality of life dropped by almost 10% over the same period.”