Poverty: a Major Concern to Europeans
In Europe, 122.6 million people or 24.5% of the population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (EU-28 Eurostat 2013). Even more worrying is the fact that children and active-age people were more at risk of poverty than elderly people. Moreover, an estimate 9.6% of the population is severely materially deprived and another 39.7% of the population could not afford unexpected financial expenses. Eurostat also estimates that nearly 24 million men and women were unemployed in March 2015. Particular attention must be paid to improving the situation of young people, since unemployment among this group is twice as high as among the general population. There is an obvious link between unemployment and poverty. And the link between youth unemployment and the dangers of social unrest is well established. Fortunately, and according to the ILO, 80% of the European workers are adequately covered by social protection (17% in Asia). But in the EU cuts in social protection due to a sluggish economic recovery have already contributed to increases in poverty. It is interesting to note ,that outside the EU, a country like Switzerland considered to be one of the richest nations in the world, has still nearly 8% of its population living below the poverty line. The EU has adopted a plan entitled "Europe 2020 Strategy". Among the EU's key objectives are: 75% of the population aged 20 to 64 years to be employed, and poverty to be reduced by lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion. Unfortunately, in the current economic environment, these goals appear difficult to achieve. Consequently, it is not difficult to predict that Europeans will remain affected by poverty well beyond the year 2020.