The Italian Caritas raises the alarm on the poverty situation. According to data from the Report on poverty and social exclusion in Italy “Everything to lose”, released today by Caritas Italiana as the VII World Day of the Poor, established by Pope Francis (Sunday 19 November), approaches, almost 10% of the population is in a state of absolute poverty: which means that one in ten people does not have access to a dignified life.
We read in the Report: «After almost thirty years from the first release of the Report, the phenomenon of poverty can be said to have been completely distorted in terms of numbers and social profiles. There are over 5 million 674 thousand absolute poor people (+357 thousand compared to 2021), equal to 9.7% of the population. It is now a structural phenomenon and no longer residual as it was in the past.”
The situation is therefore dramatic, even for those who, despite not being in conditions of absolute poverty, still find themselves at risk of poverty and social exclusion: as many as 24.4% of the total population, now also deprived of the support provided by citizenship income. According to estimates, around 400 thousand families have lost their citizenship income, and for another 500 thousand families the mortgage payments exceed half of the total income.
In 2022, the aid provided by Caritas Italiana was a total of 3.4 million, for an average of 13.5 services per patient/unit (while the average in 2021 was 6.5). The people who turn to the Caritas network mostly show material difficulties: economic problems (this affects 78.5% of users), employment problems (45.7%) and housing problems (23.1%). Then follow other forms of fragility, often associated with the first, in particular the inconveniences linked to immigration for foreigners only (24.2%), family problems (13%), health problems (11.6%), linked to education (7.8%), addictions (3.1%), detention and justice (3.1%) or handicap/disability (2.9%). Not just material poverty, therefore: this is accompanied by a whole series of inconveniences that severely limit the quality of life.
Furthermore, with respect to the care history of these subjects there is a strong heterogeneity in the cases followed. Alongside the new forms of poverty, which account for 45.3% of the total, there is a large portion of people who have been followed for longer and who struggle to get back on their feet: 21% have been followed for 1-2 years, 9 .3% for 3-4 years, 24.4% for five years and more. Among those assisted there is therefore a base of chronic and intermittent poverty that drags on from one year to the next, without any kind of improvement.
The phenomenon of the “working poor”
The alarm also concerns the so-called “working poor”, i.e. all those who find themselves in situations of personal and family poverty, in which there is no lack of work, but the income is not sufficient for a dignified life. Not unemployed or people unable to work, therefore, but those who, in fact, have a job, yet are unable to move forward peacefully: workers in the black, in grey, forced part-time, with regular contracts but all with salaries inadequate.
These are mainly employees in low-skilled professions: domestic workers, carers, cleaners, workers, labourers, employees in catering and commerce, who find themselves having more expenses than income: 76.7%, for example, live in rented houses, often with costs that are not proportionate to the actual income of the tenants.
The poor workers who turn to Caritas are equal to 22.8% of the users: 51.9% are men, 48.1% women, foreigners 64.9%, aged between 35 and 55 . Furthermore, 75.9% of these have families and children, which considerably increases economic worries and involves minors in a particularly penalizing way, often turning into social as well as material hardship.
According to what emerges from the data, in particular, the state of poverty appears correlated to forms of family fragility: in this sense the existence of some key events that transform the course of life and individual stories is confirmed, «contributing to the slide towards a condition of social vulnerability. Among the events taking place is becoming parents: two thirds of users have children (65.6%) and among them 80% live with minor children. This means that approximately 52% of the people who turn to the Caritas network have minor children.”
Among the common factors among users is the low level of education: 66.5% have at most a lower middle school diploma, and this state of affairs often leads to phenomena of occupational fragility, expressed mostly with conditions of unemployment (for 48%) and “poor work” (for 22.8%). «Survival» is the key word of the working poor, and «it highlights the awareness of having no expectations, of often not being able to live a full life, with a present that expands without time, impossible to change significantly despite the ‘personal commitment’.
The youth situation
According to ISTAT data reported in the Report, in 2022 there are 1 million 270 thousand minors living in absolute poverty: 7.5% of minors live in conditions of severe housing deprivation, with overcrowding rates approaching 50% in the case of families single-parent. School dropout is very widespread, still higher than the European average: 11.5% in Italy compared to 9.6% in the rest of Europe.
Furthermore, in 2022 young NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training), i.e. those young people who are not engaged in study, work or training activities, represent almost 20% of all 15-29 year olds (1.7 million ), more than 7 percentage points higher than the European average (11.7%). However, the 2022 data highlights a sharp decline in the number of young people involved in the phenomenon: it returns to the levels of 18.8% recorded in 2007.
Particular attention is also paid to the phenomenon of energy poverty: of the over 86 thousand economic subsidies provided by the Caritas network in 2022, intended for 19.1% of those assisted, 45% supported energy needs: electricity, gas, heating. The beneficiaries of economic subsidies useful for paying bills/taxes were mostly poor families and fragile parents, even single parents.
As stated in the Report, energy poverty is «a phenomenon that increasingly concerns the Caritas network in Italy, and which needs to be recognized and defined. In a country like Italy, access to a package of basic energy services is a basic right of every person: being able to heat one’s home and – increasingly in conditions of climate change – being able to cool it; to be able to illuminate; have access to hot water and be able to cook; but also have access to the necessary mobility services.”
According to Istat/Eurostat data, energy poverty in Italy affects 9.9% of the population, with an increasing trend in the last 10 years: a phenomenon that peaked especially during the flare-up in energy prices in winter 2022-23; but which is actually connected to the set of great transformations that the planet and the human race are experiencing.
The data promises to be dramatic also for the near future. According to the Caritas Report, in fact, Italy appears to be the country in Europe in which the inter-generational transmission of unfavorable living conditions is most frequent. In other words, «those who are born poor will most likely remain poor even as adults: an alteration of the principles of equality on which our Western democracies are based. Our republican Constitution also loses, and in particular Article 3, which continues to remain unapplied.”
The vice-president of the Chamber Sergio Costa (M5S) also expresses his opinion in this regard: «These are numbers that do not make you sleep, which should occupy every moment of the life of those who govern who instead continually use a technique of mass distraction so as not to have to admit that I am not able to deal with these emergencies.” And he adds, referring to the Budget law, which seems to effectively ignore these data: «This is demonstrated by the Budget law of the Council of Ministers, which has no vision of the polis. It is very serious that Parliament has effectively been stripped of its authority.”