The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

Editorial: Malta has more children at risk of poverty than EU average

Friday, 18 November 2016, 10:45 Last update: about 6 years ago

Around 21,000 Maltese children are estimated to be at risk of poverty.

This amounts to 28.2 per cent of the total population.

The figures refer to 2015 and are worse than the figures in 2010 when children at risk constituted 26.7 per cent of the total population.

On a scale, the Maltese children at risk of poverty are higher than the EU average, which stands at 26.9 per cent.

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These figures are published this week by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on the occasion of the Universal Children's Day celebrated on 20 November

In 2015, around 25 million children, or 26.9% of the population aged 0 to 17, in the European Union were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

This means that they were living in households in at least one of the following three conditions: at-risk-of-poverty after social transfers (income poverty), severely materially deprived or with very low work intensity.

Having 21,000 children classified as being at risk of poverty is 21,000 too much. The figure belies all boasts about the economy of Malta growing by leaps and bounds and being the best growing economy in Europe.

Having 21,000 children at risk of poverty makes a mockery of our welfare state. These children, after all, have free healthcare, free education, and a welfare system that aims at helping them to develop skills and find a job.

Somehow 21,000 children at risk of poverty means our system failing 21,000 over.

This is obviously only one aspect of the whole situation, highlighted like this because of the approaching World Children’s Day. Behind this figure there stand an unquantified number of families at risk of poverty where either there is no one to get home a wage or else where for any reason (such as illness) whatever wage, social assistance, etc the head of the family gets is palpably insufficient for the needs of the family.

A vicious circle then kicks in – poverty means lack of motivation to do well at school, which in turn leads the next generation to repeat the tragic history of the first one, hence generating generations upon generations of children at the risk of poverty

So many decades after the introduction of obligatory education for all, we still have 21,000 children at risk of poverty. So many years after the introduction of the welfare state we still have 21,000 children, on average more than the EU average,

And the situation, despite all boasts to the contrary, is getting worse: at least percentage-wise. The 21,000 children at risk of poverty in 2015 amounted to 28.2% of the total population, whereas in 2010 they were 26.9% of the total population.

Our country has over the years, under different administrations, thrown millions and millions to help alleviate poverty. It still spends millions to help these 21,000 come out of poverty till this very day. If that has not happened; if, on the contrary, the number of children at risk of poverty is increasing, we must look to see why this is happening, where we have gone wrong and how we can improve, in reality not just in words, the situation.

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