NEARLY one in four people, 23.9 per cent of the population in Cyprus, is at risk of poverty, according to 2018 figures from the Cyprus statistical service which were presented during a two-day meeting of the national anti-poverty network Cyprus and the European anti-poverty network (EAPN) on the occasion of 30 years of the foundation of the EAPN and 15 years of EAPN Cyprus.
The discussion was attended by members of EAPN from six countries. Cyprus is one of the six countries which has a seat at EAPN, the others being Spain, UK, Austria, North Macedonia and Norway.
The two-day debate was entitled ‘Assessing the Fight Against Poverty and Social Exclusion in Cyprus and Europe’ and the outcome was shared with the members of the press during a press conference at union Sek headquarters in Nicosia on Friday.
“For a long time we were not aware that poverty existed in Cyprus but unfortunately after the 2013 financial crisis the numbers of poor and deprived persons started to become obvious and it was then we all realised that our country too is faced with the problem,” district organiser Nicos Satsias said, speaking on behalf of Sek.
“Poverty is a reality and needs to tackled with sound policies, actions need to be taken in different directions. It is shocking to see fellow citizens who are really unable to meet their basic needs. The poor are no longer invisible.”
He added the income threshold for a person to be considered poor is €9,302 a year, but stressed the numbers do not reflect the reality as no one can claim that a person with an income of €10,000 a year is over the poverty line.
The guaranteed minimum income in Cyprus is a step in the right direction in tackling poverty, however, there are certain distortions that need to be addressed by the government and certain provisions that were not implemented, he added.
Conditions have changed, and rents are different to when the conditions of the guaranteed minimum income was decided.
The union spokesman also talked about the national minimum wage, another step in the right direction, but said the necessary reforms need to be implemented in order to have a social economy in favour of people in place.
EAPN Head Carlos Susias also spoke at the event, saying that the 2020 strategy includes the goal of reducing poverty by 25 million people. He referred to the network`s actions since its founding 30 years ago, saying that the phenomenon of poverty was social and economic and required not only sound strategies and planning but also awareness by the media, NGOs, universities, various organisations and by civil society as a whole so that people living in poverty can finally have a voice which will be heard.