Almost 20 million children in European Union countries are living in poverty, according to the aid organization Save the Children. In 2021, the number of children at risk of poverty increased by 200,000 to 19.6 million, a new report by the organization found.
Every fourth child in Europe was affected, the report stated. The increased cost of living and the COVID-19 pandemic were named as the main causes of the development.
The numbers were “devastating,” said Eric Grosshaus, advocacy manager of child poverty and social inequality for Save the Children Germany. In Germany, more than 2 million children lived in poverty in 2021.
“With one in five children in poverty nationwide, there can be no more excuses: the German government must finally deliver on its promises to tackle child poverty,” Grosshaus said.
Researchers worked with the AROPE indicator, which is commonly used to measure progress towards the EU 2030 target on poverty and social exclusion in Europe. Spain and Romania scored worst with 33.4% and 41.5% of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion, respectively. Germany was slightly below the European average at 23.5%, while the risk of poverty for children was lowest in Finland (13.2%) and Denmark (14%).
Child poverty affects vulnerable communities stronger
Using additional data provided from 14 European countries between October and December 2022, the aid groups said soaring food prices for basic goods such as milk, cereals and cooking oil as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the situation. Families from lower and middle-income backgrounds were particularly vulnerable to price increases.
Children with migrant backgrounds, refugees, asylum-seekers, undocumented and unaccompanied children were among the hardest hit, the report found. Children living in single-parent families, large-disadvantaged families, children with disabilities, and children belonging to ethnic minorities were also at risk.
Save the Children Europe director Ylva Sperling said no child should have to go to school hungry, live in a house without heating or be worried about their parent’s job.
“Yet, the impact of Europe’s many crises makes eating or heating no longer a choice for many families and deprives children of the essentials they need for their development and well-being,” she said. “Now is the time for bold decisions and strategic funding to rapidly expand protection and mitigate the downfall of the crises for current and future generations of children.”