Recession has a devastating impact and many of the working poor fall through the cracks

May 1st, 2012

For increasing numbers of Europeans the social safety net is full of holes – Published on Current Concerns, by Liz Alderman, April 23, 2012.

… Europe’s working poor:

  • These people are the extreme edge of Europe’s working poor: a growing slice of the population that is slipping through Europe’s long-vaunted social safety net. Many, particularly the young, are trapped in low-paid or temporary jobs that are replacing permanent ones destroyed in Europe’s economic crunch.   
  • Now, economists, European officials and social watchdog groups are warning that the situation is set to worsen. As European governments respond to the crisis by pushing for deep spending cuts to close budget gaps and greater flexibility in their work forces, “the population of working poor will explode,” said Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at L’Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.To most Europeans, and especially the French, this should not be happening. With generous minimum wage laws and the world’s strongest welfare systems, Europeans are accustomed to thinking they are more protected from a phenomenon they associate with the United States and other laissez-faire economies.
  • But the European welfare state, designed to ensure that those without jobs are provided with a basic income, access to health care and subsidized housing, is proving ill-prepared to deal with the steady increase in working people who do not make enough to get by.
  • The trend is alarming in hard-hit countries like Greece and Spain, but it is rising even in more prosperous nations like France and Germany.

Working poor living in the same condition as in the 19th century:

  • “France is a rich country,” Mr. Fitoussi said. “But the working poor are living in the same condition as in the 19th century. They can’t pay for heating, they can’t pay for their children’s clothes, they are sometimes living five people in a nine-square-meter apartment — here in France!” he exclaimed, speaking of an apartment measuring about 100 square feet.
  • In 2010, the latest year for which data were available, 8.2 percent of workers in the 17-nation euro zone were living under the region’s average poverty threshold of 10,240 euros, or $13,660, for single adult workers, up from 7.3 percent in 2006, according to Eurostat. The situation is nearly twice as bad in Spain and Greece.
  • While direct comparisons are difficult because of different standards, the Labor Department estimated that 7 percent of single adult workers in the United States earned less than the poverty threshold in 2009 of $10,830 in 2009, up from 5.1 percent in 2006.
  • France fares better than most European countries, at 6.6 percent, but perhaps nowhere is the phenomenon more startling. While the country seems to exude prosperity, the number of working poor is up from 6.1 percent in 2006, and experts predict it will grow.

In France, half the nation’s households earn less than 19,000 euros:

  • The median monthly paycheck is 1,670 euros, 26 percent above the average for the entire European Union. But the high cost of living and the difficulty many people face in securing affordable housing – home prices have surged 110 percent in the last decade, and most rentals require large advance deposits –, leaves a growing number out in the cold.
  • Ms. Dos Santos and her boyfriend, Jimmy Collin, 22, moved to the trailer because they did not want to live with their families and lacked money for a down payment on an apartment. Mr. Collin, a high school graduate with some additional technical training, searched for work for more than six months before landing a minimum-wage contract last year, at 1,375 euros per month, cleaning streets near Parisian jewels like the Eiffel Tower. He gets a small government stipend for low-income earners, but they still found it hard to save after paying taxes and living expenses. The wait for subsidized housing is more than five years.
  • Ms. Dos Santos, also a high school graduate, jumped at the job at a Carrefour supermarket after she failed to find work through one of France’s national employment centers, where counselors meant to handle 120 cases have been overwhelmed lately with up to 500 each. But her boss will not let her work more than 35 hours a week, and she cannot find supplemental jobs.
  • “It holds people back,” she said.

120,000 people are living on French camping sites: … //

… Children in Greece: To relieve the hardship:

  • The collection of food for Greece by the Greek community of Zurich was concluded at the end of March, so that the food arrived at its destination before the Greek Easter festival on 15th April. In his sermon the Greek priest Emmanuel Simantirakis thanked for the 5 metric tons of food which will help to relieve the hardship a little.
  • However, the donation activity of the Greek community of Zurich goes on. In view of the difficult situation at present in Greece they need your support, to help the needy children.
  • The Greek community board of directors has therefore selected two child-care organizations, which they would like to support with your direct financial aid: and
  • For this purpose the Zurich Greek community opened: a new Post Cheque Account named “GGZ helps children in GR”
  • PC 60-329248-0.
  • As the organizations depend on your help as quickly as possible, the first phase of this relief operation has to be concluded by the end of April 2012. The collected sum will be published on the web-site
  • We are hoping for a vivid response and thank you all for your aid.

Increasing suiciderate caused by economic crisis: … (full text).


Tax dispute with Switzerland;


The Meaning of Austerity Measures in the Eurozone;

The IOPS site (International Organization for a Participatory Society);

The Simpsons Go IOPS;

Chinese demography: An upside-down pyramid.

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