Poverty Eradication Day all about warnings of Covid-19 impact

Ljubljana – This year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in Slovenia and the world is marked by warnings of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on those who already had problems making ends meet. Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina said those who could not work because of corona restrictions were slowly slipping into poverty.

Globally, 736 million people live in absolute poverty, meaning with no more than 1.9 US dollar a day, while in Slovenia, where relative poverty is measured, one in eight citizens lives below the risk of poverty threshold.

This was 243,000 people last year, when the at-risk-of-poverty rate was at 12%, official statistics show. In 2018, the rate was 1.3 percentage points higher.

Since coronavirus restrictions have a very negative impact on some people’s finances, the “measures of decision-makers must be aimed at protecting jobs, while those who cannot work because of the current situation must receive a helping hand from the state,” Svetina told the STA.

His office said that poverty was on the rise, and it is diverse and multilayered.

Organisations helping children warn that during the epidemic children have been even more exposed to poverty, social exclusion, domestic violence, on-line violence, loneliness, emotional distress and learning difficulties.

Last year, as many as 41,000 children lived below the risk of poverty threshold, which UNICEF Slovenije finds inadmissible. This means the at-risk-of-poverty rate was at 10.5%, according to the youth charity ZPMS. In 2018, it was even higher, at 11.7%, which meant 45,000 children.

Official statistics shows that the elderly too are a very fragile group, women especially. The at-poverty-risk rate for women stood at 13% last year, and for elderly at 18.6%. The figure increases to 23% for women over 65 and to 28.1% for those older than 75.

According to the Statistics Office, struggling the most last year were people living alone and single parents with at least one child. As expected, people not working, especially the unemployed, had the most financial problems.

The at-risk-of-poverty threshold for a one-member household was at EUR 8,440 last year and at EUR 703 per month.

The Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said ahead of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty it was constantly introducing measures to address the challenges brought about by the new coronavirus.

So far, almost 300,000 jobs have been preserved, and 300,000 pensioners along with almost 50,000 recipients of social welfare have received a one-off solidarity bonus, it said.

Minister Janez Cigler Kralj stresses that the ministry will continue to actively respond to the distress of the people and to their needs, and propose measures to eradicate poverty.

President Borut Pahor spoke on the phone today with David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian organisation that fights hunger and recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Pahor said, according to his office, that the prize was not just an acknowledgement of past work but also as a warning about the importance of the organisation’s efforts in the immediate future due to the impact of the pandemic.

Beasley said that the social consequences of Covid-19 would be felt not just in the undeveloped part of the world but also in developed countries. He said the international community needed to prepare for that, according to Pahor’s office.