* More children on poverty line in five countries
* Poorest children of five in Spain and Greece
* Charity blames austerity cuts
By Claire Davenport
BRUSSELS, Feb 14 Almost a third of children in
Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain have been pushed to
the brink of poverty by austerity designed to bring down public
debt, the global charity Caritas said on Thursday.
Italy and euro zone countries that have received
international loans are creating a generation of poorly-fed
young people with low morale and few job prospects as the number
of children at risk of poverty continues to rise, the charity
said, citing EU statistics.
"This could be a recipe not just for one lost generation in
Europe but for several lost generations," Caritas said.
Since 2010 Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have received
tens of billions in loans from the European Union and the
International Monetary Fund in return for spending cutbacks and
tax rises. Indebted Italy has not received an international
In all five of these countries the increasing rate of
children close to poverty coincides with the height of the
crisis in 2008 and rises year-on-year to 2011. Statistics for
2012 are not yet available.
The charity blames children's growing impoverishment on
family-unfriendly cuts to welfare, unemployment benefits, rising
value-added tax and increased fuel duties.
"It has become an established fact that children are more at
risk of poverty than any other demographic," Deirdre de Burca
from Caritas said.
Figures from the European Commission show that in 2011 over
30 percent of children in Spain and Greece were at risk of
poverty or exclusion, a four percentage point rise since 2005.
In Portugal that figure is just below a third at 28.6 percent.
The 2011 figures for Ireland and Italy were not available.
In 2010 37.6 percent of children were at risk of poverty or
exclusion in Ireland and 28.9 percent in Italy.
Children are defined as nearing poverty and exclusion if
they live in families with 60 percent or less the median income
or have parents with little or no employment or lack basic
essentials such as protein-rich foods, heating and clothes.
Caritas said governments must ask themselves what these
trends will mean for children in the long run.
Studies show children from poor households are more likely
to underperform at school and to struggle at finding or keeping
"They are looking at a future where the prospect of
unemployment is stretching out ahead of them," de Burca said.