Spain’s poverty rate ‘appallingly high’: UN expert

26.1% of people in Spain, 29.5% of country’s children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, says UN official

Alyssa McMurtry  | 07.02.2020 - Update : 08.02.2020
Spain’s poverty rate ‘appallingly high’: UN expert FILE PHOTO


Although Spain has made a steady recovery from the 2007 economic recession, poverty rates in the country are appallingly high, a UN expert said on Friday.

“26.1 percent of people in Spain, and 29.5 percent of children, were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2018, among the highest rates in Europe,” Philip Alston, UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in a statement after concluding a 12-day fact-finding visit to the country.

“The self-image of a close family-based society rooted in deeply shared values and social solidarity has been badly fractured by an economic crisis and the implementation of neoliberal policies,” Alston said.

He mentioned his visit to a migrant settlement, whose conditions he said “rival the worst I have seen anywhere in the world.”

He also recalled his visit to segregated schools for Roma children, a shantytown without running water or electricity and the outskirts of Madrid where people were bringing up their families in an area deemed hazardous to human health.

Alston pointed out that Spain spent just 16.6% of its GDP on social protection, more than two points below the EU average.

According to the statement, the minimum pensioner earns €392 ($439.31) per month, which is little more than a third of the minimum wage.

While corporate tax rates were cut since 2007, Spain’s spending on education has decreased significantly, despite having the highest dropout rate in the EU (17.9%), it said.

The statement also pointed out that bureaucratic procedures have “wreaked havoc in many areas of social protection.”

“If strategic plans, action programs, and voluminous but unreadable reports could solve poverty, Spain would be riding high. But in the absence of a meaningful commitment to uphold people’s social rights to housing, education, and an adequate standard of living, these grand designs will continue to be as ineffectual as they have been over the past decade,” Alston said.

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