21.6 million children in Europe are poor – now the European Commission decided on establishing a “child guarantee” against poverty
Around 96 million children under the age of 18 live in the European Union, 22.5% of them in poverty. Despite the economic power of the EU, many children in Europe have insufficient resources, and the consequences are usually felt throughout their lives. Now politicians want to take countermeasures. Currently a guarantee against child poverty (“Child Guarantee”) is under discussion, which is supposed to ensure the well-being of all children.
How does one measure poverty?
Several factors can be used to indicate when a child is in child poverty. The EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, determines these and collects them regularly. Accordingly, a child is considered poor if he or she is either at risk of poverty according to the at-risk-of-poverty rate, experiences significant disadvantage or lives in a low-income household.
Specifically, according to the EU, these are children who come from difficult family backgrounds, belong to ethnic minorities, are homeless or disabled. In total, this amounts to 21.6 million children in the EU.
The strategy of the EU
Back in 2015, the European Parliament called on member states to introduce a so-called Child Guarantee (“Child Guarantee”). The aim was to provide all children with free access to education, a roof over their heads and healthcare.
A study conducted by the European Commission in 2020 found that cities have so far taken action against child poverty in two main ways. On the one hand, children should be supported as early as possible, and on the other hand, the entire family should be given better opportunities. This is usually done by providing access to affordable housing, more kindergarten places or free school meals.
In collaboration with UNICEF, a two-year pilot project is currently underway in seven countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Spain and Lithuania) to test the effectiveness of further measures. Each country is designed to provide support and assistance to children at risk of poverty and to provide access to health care, healthy food, education and safe housing.
Each participating country has determined its own individual focus. While Greece’s focus includes school inclusion and establishing a system for foster children, Italy wants to build community housing and create support centers for families.
The key elements of the EU-Child Guarantee
The Child Guarantee is a particular concern of EU child rights advocates. Each member state individually develops and presents strategies to address child poverty in their country. The long-term is to minimize disadvantage. That way children from low-income families also have the opportunity to start their lives free of imposed barriers. By 2030 the number of children is planned to be reduced by 5 million. The “Child Guarantee” was adopted by the European Council in June 2021. It thus forms one pillar of the EU strategy for children’s rights.
Child poverty in everyday life
If there is no money for healthy food at home, it is harder to study at school – which in turn affects grades. Not to mention the health aspect. If there are then difficulties in math or English, there is no money for tutoring and the parents themselves do not have the time to support their own child.
As a result, children from socially disadvantaged families rarely make it to graduation. Not because they are not smart enough, but because there is a lack of material support to promote their abilities.
Later, the difficulties continue at university. Those who have to work 20 hours on the side to afford rent take longer to graduate. And those who study longer pay more tuition. Between 360€ and 720€ per semester, depending on the student’s nationality. In addition, there are unpaid compulsory internships in virtually every course of study, which many simply cannot cope with.
In short: Poverty usually runs through the entirety of a person’s life. It is not a matter of individual fate and it cannot be fought with diligence. It lays the foundations for later life at an early age. This is precisely where subsidies such as the Child Guarantee could help.