Spain's child poverty crisis: Austerity policies take a toll
Six years after the 2008 global financial collapse, poverty and unemployment are still rending the social fabric of southern Europe. Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece have all been devastated, not just by the immediate fallout from economic collapse, but also by their membership in the Eurozone. Because these four countries employ the Euro as their official currency, the don’t have control over their own money supply, and so they need to rely on the so-called “Troika” – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – to provide economic stimulus.
In return for bailout founds, the Troika has demanded that struggling European Union member states pass one round after another of wide-ranging austerity budgets. In other words, at a time when economic stress had already caused regional unemployment and poverty to skyrocket, the Troika demanded that southern Europe eliminate vast swaths of its social safety net. Spain alone has shed tens of thousands of public sector jobs, cut salaries and benefits, and chipped away at assistance for the disabled.
The nation has taken a step away from austerity in its 2014 budget, but the cuts have left their mark. Spain’s unemployment rate is still close to 25%, and youth unemployment as of 2014 is still higher than 50%. But as always, in times of great economic stress, it is the most vulnerable populations that suffer more than anyone else. Spain is in the midst of a child poverty crisis.
In 2011, Spain’s child poverty rate was in excess of 30%, according to a report from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. The commissioner, Nils Muižnieks, cited austerity as a direct cause for the high poverty figures. He singled out forced evictions and cuts to the education budget in particular.
The international NGO Save the Children was even more blunt in a recent report on Spanish child poverty.
“The austerity policies are not only diminishing the financial capacity of families,” wrote the report’s authors. “They are also weakening essential areas for the protection of children from poverty: Social services, education, health care and even the capability of social action organizations.”
To accompany the Save the Children’s report, Spanish photographer Aitor Lara captured stark, black-and-white photographs of impoverished children in Spain.