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Helping the poor at home - 31/12/2009

Logo of the European year for combating poverty and social exclusion  © EC

2010 – European year for combating poverty and social exclusion.

Ten years ago, European leaders pledged to end poverty in the EU by 2010. As this deadline approaches, the goal is still some way off.

Not confined to developing countries, poverty is a blight on European societies too. A complex issue, poverty excludes people from leading the type of lives most of us take for granted. It often stems from causes as diverse as poor education, addiction or a deprived childhood with limited access to cultural, social and material resources.

In the EU, people are defined as poor if their income is below 60% of the median wage in the country where they live. By this definition, nearly 80 million Europeans – more than 15% of the population – are living on or below the poverty line. One European in 10 lives in a household where nobody works, and for 8% of Europeans having a job is not enough to work one’s way out of poverty.

Yet the situation is not hopeless. One of Europe’s key values is solidarity. Accordingly, the EU has declared 2010 the year for combating poverty and social exclusion. Among the many initiatives and activities planned, there will be a meeting bringing together people living in poverty across Europe (in May) and a roundtable discussion (in October). In addition, each EU country will have its own programme – designed to address specific problems.

Ending poverty was one of the main goals of the growth and jobs plan, (Lisbon strategy), adopted by member countries in 2000. It is hoped that the European-year campaign will be the catalyst needed to keep the fight against poverty a priority, transforming these ambitions into reality.

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