Three million Spaniards now live in dire poverty, says Cáritas

Catholic charity talks of people “left in dark” as Spain finally emerges from “tunnel” of recession

After five years of crisis, more than three million Spaniards are now living in dire poverty, as defined by monthly income of under 307 euros, according to a report by charity organization Cáritas.

Cáritas’ Living Conditions Survey, which is included in the organization’s Social Reality Observatory for 2012, shows that the percentage of the population now living below the breadline has almost doubled from 3.5 percent in 2007 to 6.4 percent last year.

The Catholic charity speaks of a “second wave of poverty and social exclusion,” exacerbated by the government’s austerity drive and spending cuts, accompanied by continued high and prolonged unemployment with increasing numbers of jobless no longer entitled to state benefits.”

“An alternative social policy is possible. One of our proposals is to establish a basic income,” the secretary general of Cáritas España, Sebastián Mora, told a news conference on Thursday. Referring to the government’s increasing confidence that the economy is starting to improve, Mora said: “What could happen is that we emerge from the tunnel leaving millions of people in the dark. We could have a very strong economy alongside people who can’t get ahead.”

We could have a very strong economy alongside people who can’t get ahead”

The report also highlights growing inequality in the country to the highest levels in Europe. It points to figures from the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat that show that the richest 20 percent of the population in Spain have 7.5 times more wealth than the poorest 20 percent. “We are approaching a model of social Darwinism, with few winners and lots of losers,” the report says.

Cáritas’ report was released a day after Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse published its latest Global Wealth Report, which showed that the number of millionaires in Spain rose by 13 percent to 402,000 between mid-2012 and the middle of this year, despite the country’s longest recession in half a century.

According to Cáritas’ report the poverty rate in Spain has increased from 19.7 percent in 2007 to 21.1 percent last year. The threshold for the definition of poverty for a family of four fell from 15,900 euros a year per household to 14,700 in 2012. As a result many pensioners who before were regarded as living below the poverty line are no longer classified as such.

The number of people who attended Cáritas help centers has increased from 370,251 in 2007 to 1.3 million in 2012. Mora described a “situation of abandonment, injustice and the loss of basic rights.”

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