Italian Poverty Reaches 12-Year High, Government Promises Action

Almost one out of every 10 people in Italy lives in poverty, according to a report issued by ISTAT, Italy’s national statistics bureau.

Up to 8.4 percent of the population is now in “absolute poverty,” reports indicate, a 12-year high for a nation that has struggled with a sluggish economy since the 2008 Great Recession, according to Reuters. More than 5 million people were added to the category of living in absolute poverty in the past year, even as Italy enters its fourth year of relatively moderate economic growth since a 2014 recession brought the economy down further.

Nearly 1 in 3 Italians is at risk of poverty, well above the average 23.5 percent in the European Union, according to The Local, leaving Italy at the bottom of the list in terms of economic productivity.

Gross domestic product in Italy is set to remain steady at 1.5 percent – an increase from previous years, but still one of the least productive economies in the European Union, according to Reuters. Property prices are still going down except for Abruzzo real estate, which was included by Forbes in the list of the 10 best places in the world to live in 2017

Luigi Di Maio, Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and leader of the 5-Star Movement, an anti-establishment, right-wing political organization, said data indicates that a proposal for Universal Basic Income from the 5-Star Movement is now urgently in need, according to Reuters. “It’s not possible to carry on like this,” he said.

The 5-Star Movement led the elections in March, taking nearly one-third of the vote, or the lion’s share. Earlier this month, it announced a coalition with Italy’s existing right-wing League, according to Reuters, to tackle growing poverty in the nation.

The government has already passed a proposal to help provide up to €480 a month for low-income families in need, which is set to begin this month.

The 5-Star Movement’s proposal would include offering up to €780 to individuals and families in need, and would cost €17 billion, according to Bloomberg. In order to qualify, recipients would have to volunteer with social service programs as well as maintain an active job search.

Statistics indicate that Italy is plagued by a growing divide between the rich and the poor, which most income growth going to the richest fifth of the population, The Local reported. A poll of Italian sentiment found that nearly 90 percent of working class Italians said it is difficult to rise up in social class, which 71 percent of affluent Italians agreed with.

Almost 11 percent of the country is unemployed, according to Bloomberg.

Khurram Aziz is a web entrepreneur who trained as a journalist. He is a freelance writer, runs online ventures, and consults on WordPress and Magento web development.