By Lisa Zengarini
European bishops are calling on the European Union to listen to the “cry of the poor” and to leave “no one behind” in the recovery process following the Covid-19 pandemic. The call was made on Thursday in a statement released by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), which proposes several “good practices” and recommendations on how to enhance the fight against poverty in Europe.
The Statement “Listen to the cry of the Poor in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery” has been prepared by the COMECE Social Affairs Commission and aims to take stock of the existing EU strategies to tackle poverty, report some actions of the Church to support people in poverty during the pandemic, and bring its recommendations to the attention of the EU institutions and leaders.
10% of European workers at risk of poverty
The 11-page Paper notes that although poverty and social exclusion have declined in the EU in the last decade, “the ambitious social target of Europe 2020 of a reduction of 20 million people at risk of poverty or social exclusion was not met”. “In 2019, around 91 million people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU. This represents about one in five persons living in the EU. Further data shows that in 2020, around 10% of European workers were at risk of poverty”, the Commission writes, remarking that the COVID-19 crisis “has hindered any possibility to overcome a situation of poverty”.
Multiplication of fragility situations
While the pandemic has not created “an explosion of poverty”, there has been a “multiplication of fragility situations affecting the life of persons, families and communities across the Union”, the Statement points out, calling attention to the increase of in-work poverty and the worrying situation of many workers who do not benefit from dignified working conditions or do not have their work valued.
Need for a multi-dimensional approach
Although fighting poverty is one of the main social priorities of the EU, according to European bishops “more should be done to measure and tackle new forms of poverty” that have emerged clearly during the pandemic. The EU and its Member States need “to better acknowledge the multi-dimensional approach of poverty in order to leave no one behind.”
Good practices and recommendations
The Paper goes on to offer examples of "good practices" put into action by a number of institutions, and with the support of different Church organizations, to help meet the most pressing needs of people in poverty.
It concludes with eleven recommendations, including strengthening material and food assistance under EU funding; finding better ways of measuring poverty that match the present reality; facilitating access to affordable and decent housing; working to prevent over-indebtedness; and promoting decent work, quality education, and solidarity.