Half of southern Italians at risk of poverty: report

The Local Italy
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Half of southern Italians at risk of poverty: report
Sicily is the area of Italy with the highest level of poverty. Photo: Salvatore Freni Jr/Flickr

One in four Italians is at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a new report says, and the risk is almost twice as high in the south of the country.


Families with children are more at risk of poverty than ever, according to the report from national statistics agency Istat, which estimated that a total of almost 17.5 million people live in poverty in Italy. 

Couples with at least three children face the highest risk, with 48.3 percent of them struggling to make ends meet in 2015, up from 39.4 percent the previous year.

Overall, the poverty rate has remained basically stable at 28.7 percent (it was 28.3 percent in 2014), meaning Italy is a long way off reaching the target set by the Europe 2020 Strategy for poverty - which is supposed to see the number of those living at risk of poverty in Italy drop to 12.8 million in four years' time.

There are significant geographical differences too.

In the south of the country, the rate of poverty is 46.4 percent, a slight increase on 2014's figure of 45.6 percent. The situation was starkest in Sicily, where this figure rose to 55.4 percent.

This compares to 24 percent in central Italy and 17.4 percent in the prosperous north. The areas with the lowest levels of poverty were Bolzano (13,7%), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (14,5%) and Emilia-Romagna (15,4%).

Istat's report also unveiled income inequality across the country. Across Italy, half of families lived on an annual income of less than €24,190, a figure which fell to €20,000 in the south.

The wealthiest 20 percent of families took home more than 37 percent of the total income, while the poorest 20 percent accounted for just 7.7 percent of the full figure.

"From 2009 to 2014, salary in real terms has fallen for the poorest 20 percent," the report noted. "This has increased the gap between the rich and poor."

The richest 20 percent now earn 4.9 times as much as the poorest; a significant increase over the five-year period. In 2009, this figure was 4.6.

This is the latest report in recent months to shine a light on the economic hardship of thousands of Italian families. A Save the Children report in October said a third of Italian children were at risk of poverty, many of them living in cold or damp homes and missing out on educational and cultural opportunities.

In the same month, a study from Catholic charity Caritas revealed that millennials were Italy's poorest generation, overtaking the elderly for the first time while the overall level of poverty had increased.




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