One in four children in Cyprus are at risk of poverty, slightly below the European average, according to statistics released by the European Parliament (EP) ahead of a debate on the issue on Monday.
MEPs debate on Monday a report calling on EU countries to make children a priority in their policies and urging them to boost their efforts to combat child poverty and social inequalities. They vote on it the following day.
Overall, more than one in four children in Europe are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, which will have repercussions for them throughout life, according to the report.
According to Eurostat, about 26 million children (anyone under 18) were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2014. This represents 27.7 per cent of all children in the EU.
in Cyprus the figure was 24.7 in 2014, which was an improvement over 2012 and 2013 when it hit 27.5 per cent and 27.7 per cent respectively. Prior to 2012 and the advent of the financial crisis, Cyprus was well below the EU average. In 2011 the figure for child poverty on the island was 23.4 per cent but jumped significatly in the ensuing 12 months. The lowest rate of child poverty on the island recorded in the past decade was 20.2 per cent, in 2009.
According to the European Parliament, children living in poverty can be found in every EU country, even if percentages vary.
Children are at greatest risk of poverty in Romania (51 per cent, Bulgaria (45.2 per cent) and Hungary (41.4 per cent, whereas the percentage is much lower in countries such as Denmark (14.5 per cent), Finland (15.6 per cent) and Sweden (16.7 per cent).
UK and Ireland are doing worse than the EU average of 27.7 per cent with 31.3 per cent and 33.9 per cent respectively.
The problem of malnutrition among children is also growing in Europe. According to Unicef, the percentage of children who cannot afford to eat meat or fish every second day has doubled in Estonia, Greece and Italy since 2008.
Besides the inability of covering basic needs of children such as food, clothing and housing, poverty is also linked to social exclusion and the lack of access to quality health and education. Children living with single parents, especially single mothers, are also at a greater risk of poverty, the EP said.
The author of the report to be debated on Monday, Inês Cristina Zuber, a Portuguese member of the GUE/NGL group, said: “Austerity policies created this situation and it has been getting worse.” She added that member states should ensure access to education, health and social security services for children and their families as well as tackle unemployment, promote job security, a balanced nutrition and adequate housing.