Despite the serious economic and labour-market crises triggered by the pandemic, poverty levels remained stable in the EU, albeit with a high degree of heterogeneity between countries and different segments of the population, according to the preliminary results of a new study.
The Geography of Covid study, conducted by ESPON, the European cooperation programme specialised in regional analysis, said that the percentage of people at risk of poverty decreased by 1.21% on average with respect to pre-pandemic levels. The United Kingdom registered the biggest variation in the number of families with incomes below the poverty-risk threshold, with an estimated growth rate of 85.4%. It was followed by Iceland (32.6%), Germany (25%) and Latvia (9.9%).
The health emergency led to an increase in poverty in these countries. The researchers stressed that about half of the non-EU member States registered substantial differences with respect to pre-pandemic levels. As for Italy, Basilicata, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Emilia Romagna were the hardest-hit regions, followed by Lombardy, Tuscany, Molise and Sardinia. Thanks to the support and measures adopted by governments during the pandemic, income inequality actually decreased in European countries.
The report explains that without this support, on the other hand, the crisis would have hit the lower-income groups even harder, with major consequences for the most vulnerable segments of the population and more accentuated differences within countries. The greatest disparities are registered within the same countries, between cities and regions. The researchers said that this can be explained by the fact that in many countries regional governments, having social-policy responsibilities, implemented specific local-level interventions to help the poorest families and mitigate the effects of the crisis, in particular with direct financial support or with other measures to boost purchasing power.