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9 out of 10 Europeans want urgent action on poverty

27/10/2009 9 out of 10 Europeans want urgent action on poverty

73% of Europeans consider poverty to be a widespread problem in their country while 89% want urgent action by their government to tackle the problem.

Those are the key results from a new Eurobarometer survey on attitudes to poverty and social exclusion presented by the European Commission on 27 October 2009. The survey is being presented ahead of the 2010 European Year Against Poverty.

Against a bleak picture of nearly 80 million people – or 16% of the EU population – living below the poverty line, and facing serious obstacles in accessing employment, education, housing, social and financial services, today's survey sheds light on the many facets of poverty and social exclusion.

EU citizens are strongly aware of poverty and social exclusion, with 73% who feel that poverty in their country is widespread.

High unemployment (52%) and insufficient wages (49%) are the most widely perceived ‘societal’ explanations for poverty, together with insufficient social benefits and pensions (29%) and the excessive cost of decent housing (26%). On the other hand, a lack of education, training or skills (37%), as well as ‘inherited’ poverty (25%) and addiction (23%) are the most widely perceived ‘personal’ reasons behind poverty.

Over half of Europeans (56%) believe that the unemployed are most at risk of poverty, while 41% believe that the elderly are most vulnerable, and 31% cite those with a low level of education, training or skills.

Close to nine out of ten Europeans (87%) believe that poverty hampers people’s chances of gaining access to decent housing, eight out of ten feel that being poor limits access to higher education or adult learning, and 74% believe that it damages their chances of finding a job. The majority of Europeans (60%) believe that access to a decent basic school education is affected, and 54% believe that the ability to maintain a network of friends and acquaintances is limited by poverty.

On average, 89% of Europeans say that urgent action is needed by their national government to tackle poverty. Across Europe, 53% feel that their national governments are primarily responsible for combating poverty. Even if Europeans do not regard the European Union as primarily responsible for combating poverty, its role is nonetheless seen as important by many (28% see it as ‘very important’, and 46% ‘somewhat important’).

The Eurobarometer survey was carried out between 28 August and 17 September 2009. Overall, nearly 27,000 citizens in all EU Member States were interviewed face-to-face, following a random selection of respondents.