Social emergency
Society 19/01/2022

Pandemic leaves half a million more young people poor in Spain

Caritas warns of "unprecedented 'shock'" of social and economic effects of crisis

3 min
Volunteers at the Santa Anna Field Hospital handing out food, in a file image

BarcelonaThe two years of the pandemic are proving to be an " unprecedented shock" for the the inequality gap and the precariousness of Spanish society. This is denounced in the report Evolution of social cohesion and consequences of covid-19 in Spain, prepared by the Foessa Foundation and presented this Tuesday by Caritas. It stresses that since 2018 there are two million more poor people in the country, taking the total to 11 million, or a quarter of the census. The sudden break of the economy in March 2020 is only comparable to that of the years of the Civil War, and its social effects continue to be felt despite benefits such as furlough (ERTE) or the minimum living income.

This is the first major social analysis of the pandemic. A total of 7,000 people were surveyed on 37 issues in eight different areas, such as health, education, social conflict or income. If none of these areas is affected, the person is considered to be in "full integration", while if at least five are, they are considered to be severely socially excluded. In the years the report studies, severe exclusion has risen from 8.6% to 12.7%, the highest figure since 2007. This means six million people in Spain, two million more than in 2018. "Every crisis inequality increases, and the impact of this crisis has been serious and severe," stressed the general secretary of Caritas Spain, Natalia Peiro. In this sense, three out of every ten families have had to reduce the money they spend on food, clothing and footwear, i.e. basic necessities.

Double crisis among young people

Young people, alongside women and the migrant population, are suffering the most, because they have not received the protection of the so-called social shield: the pandemic crisis has been the latest blow to a group that had already suffered during the 2008 recession and had not yet recovered. Its poverty rate is three times that of the over-65s, who receive pensions. There are now half a million more young people below the poverty line than four years ago: that is, 1.4 million youngsters between the ages of 16 and 34 are poor in Spain. "Young people have lived through two crises in a row, which have deprived them of many opportunities in an essential phase of their lives", lamented the coordinator of the Caritas Research Team and technical secretary of Foessa, Raúl Flores, who indicated - as reported by Efe - that "those who were 18 years old in 2008 have were caught by the 2020 crisis at the age of 30".

The feminisation of poverty

In the case of women, the gender gap has become even wider because the health crisis has pushed them back into the domestic sphere and into having to take care of the family. They have also been more exposed to the virus or have been expelled from the labour market, since the impact of covid has been felt more virulently in the most feminised professions, such as retail or services. Among foreigners, half of households are in poverty, almost three times as many as households with Spanish citizens.

According to the research, during the health crisis, job insecurity doubled and reached almost two million households that are economically dependent on a main breadwinner who suffers severe job instability (with three or more contracts or who has been unemployed for at least three months in the year). In short, and as many charities had already warned, it has been proven that the aids and benefits created to protect the most vulnerable are insufficient and have not reached around 600,000 households which have no regular income, a fact which obscures the timid shoots of macroeconomic recovery.

Caritas insists that it is not only an economic crisis, but that the pandemic has precipitated the digitisation of procedures and services from one day to the next, and has left no margin for poor families or groups such as the elderly to adapt to the new situation. Thus, digital disconnection is a new factor of social exclusion, researchers point out. This "new 21st century illiteracy" affects almost half of poor households, which is equivalent to 1.8 million households that do not have digital devices or Internet access in their daily lives.