Shopping at the butchers. Eva Parey
Almost half the adult population of Spain is having difficulty making ends meet
Personal finance

Almost half the adult population of Spain is having difficulty making ends meet

The rising cost of living has bumped up the number of people at risk of poverty in the country to 12.7 million

José A. González


Wednesday, 5 June 2024, 22:57

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"I can't make ends meet". This is a phrase that is heard more and more frequently among the people of Spain. Rising food prices, the supply chain crisis and the war in Ukraine have further widened the gap between the cost of living and the salary that many workers in Spain receive at the end of the month.

This imbalance between income and expenditure has led to a significant loss of purchasing power, which economists estimate to be around 1,200 euros. This has meant that almost half of the adult population, 48.7%, find it difficult to make ends meet and are limping towards payday. The statistics are revealed in the XIV report on 'The State of Poverty in Spain' by the European Anti-Poverty Network in Spain (EAPN-ES).

This research includes for the first time an analysis of the relationship between poverty and access to housing. "The scarcity of affordable rents and the difficulties in acquiring a property increase inequalities and contribute to the persistence of social exclusion", the report states. Indeed, housing-related expenses are the main drag on economic recovery for households.

Rent payments represent a high percentage of the monthly outlay of families living in Spain. "The average price has increased almost three times more than the income per person, which means a greater economic effort and a worsening of poverty", stresses the report.

Therefore, the number of people at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion in Spain has reached 12.7 million people, some 400,000 more than last year and half a percentage point more than in 2022. "This is due to the rising cost of living," confirmed the report's authors.

Families with children are hardest hit by the rising cost of living, with child poverty rising from 27.8% to 28.9% compared to the previous year: some 2.3 million children and adolescents are at risk of poverty. In this regard, EAPN-ES points out that there are no poor children without poor homes, insisting also that being born into a vulnerable household increases the chances of staying poor in adulthood.

The face of poverty: women and young people

In Spain, poverty has a woman's face, not because the rules of the Spanish language dictate that it is a feminine noun ('la pobreza'), but because this precarious state of affairs affects more women and young people than anyone else. "The data show that the feminisation of poverty is a structural problem", said EAPN-ES.

Last year 5.1 million women were classed as poor, some 300,000 more women than men, and this is due to the continuing gender gap in the world of work. Research by EAPN-ES shows that having precarious, less stable employment doubles the risk of poverty.

Therefore, in 2023 around 2.5 million working people were poor. This is mainly due to the quality of the labour market that, despite the improvements resulting from the latest labour reform and the increase in the minimum wage, is still characterised by instability, affecting women and young people in particular.

Despite the worrying figures, EAPN-ES stresses that the situation would be much worse without the protective action of central government, which helps to prevent 10.6 million people from falling into poverty and some 2.4 million into severe poverty. EAPN-ES also highlights the essential role of public pensions as a factor in sustaining the quality of life for a part of the population: pensions alone reduce the risk of poverty by 16.4 points, i.e. some 7.8 million people. However, EAPN-ES proposes they should increase and extend the policies implemented in recent years and, above all, to extend the measures of the state's 'social shield' of support that expires on 30 June, "especially those focused on the most vulnerable groups."

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