| 22 February 2024, Thursday |

Extreme poverty jumps in Italy on back of COVID woes

According to figures released on Wednesday, the number of Italians living in absolute poverty increased substantially in 2020, reaching its highest level in at least 15 years, as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc across the country.

According to the national statistics bureau ISTAT, roughly 5.6 million individuals, or 9.4 percent of the population, lived in absolute poverty last year, defined as those unable to purchase goods and services necessary to reach “a minimally acceptable level of living.”

It was the lowest reading since comparable records began in 2005, with 4.6 million persons, or 7.7% of the population, in 2019.

In terms of families, slightly more than two million households were mired in absolute poverty last year – 7.7% of the total, up from 6.4% in 2019. In the poorer south, 9.4% of families lived in severe poverty, while in the north, the figure stood at 7.6%.

Italy’s economy shrank by 8.9% in 2020, its steepest post-war recession, with lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus slamming businesses.

There were 1.3 million minors in absolute poverty, accounting for 13.5 percent of all Italians under the age of 18, up from 11.4 percent in 2019.

Foreigners were the hardest hit, with 29.3 percent of registered migrants – around 1.5 million people – living in extreme poverty, compared to 7.5 percent of Italian nationals.

However, the number of Italians living in “relative poverty,” defined as having a disposable income less than half that of the national average, fell to 13.5% of the population last year, down from 14.7 percent the year before.

The drop, according to ISTAT, was caused by a substantial drop in household expenditures across the board, which skewed the calculation.

  • Reuters