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Five million people are still living in 'absolute' poverty in Italy

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Five million people are still living in 'absolute' poverty in Italy
People walk past a homeless person in a shop doorway in Rome. Photo: LAURENT EMMANUEL/AFP
08:56 CEST+02:00
About 8.4 percent of the Italian population, or five million people, were still living in “absolute poverty” in 2018 according to the latest data from Italian national statistics office Istat.

While the figures seem to show poverty is no longer on the increase in Italy, this also means poverty levels in the country remain at a record high.

And the number of families living in poverty increased to around three million, or 1.8 percent, the highest since Istat records began in 2005 and double the pre-crisis rate.

Istat defines absolute poverty as being unable to buy goods and services essential for ‘acceptable’ living standards.

Unemployment in Italy is still above ten percent. Photo: Controluce/AFP

The latest figures date from before the introduction of new initiatives aimed at tackling poverty from Italy's year-old government, a coalition between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and League parties.

In April the government rolled out its basic income scheme, a new social security payment aimed at tackling poverty which was a flagship M5S policy.

And now the party is pushing for the introduction of the minimum wage in Italy, which is currently one of just a handful of European countries without a minimum wage law.

READ ALSO: Here are the main things included in Italy's 'people's budget'

In Italy’s south, from where M5S gets most of its support, the number of people living in absolute poverty rose to 9.6 percent, Istat said, and to almost 11 percent on the islands.

That's compared with 6.6 percent in Rome, and around seven percent in northern regions, including in the financial capital, Milan.

Italians living in “relative poverty” - those with a disposable income of less than half the national average – fell slightly to 15 percent of the total population, down from 15.6 percent in 2017.

Lack of employment was cited as a major cause of poverty, with 28 percent of unemployed Italians living in poverty in 2018, up from 26.7 percent in 2017.

Italy entered its third recession in a decade in late 2018, and the country's unemployment rate is now hovering around 10.2 percent, above the eurozone average.

While unemployment levels have been slowly going down, data shows that precarious and low-paid work is on the increase in Italy.

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