Child Poverty In Europe More than 165 million people in Europe live below the poverty line. In 18 countries of central and eastern Europe and the newly independent states (CCEE/NIS) for which data now exist, 8 have 50% or higher of their population living below the poverty line. Some 2% of the population of the European Region lives in absolute poverty (Fig. 1). With respect to countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), relative poverty is a significant reality: for instance, 11% of people were living in relative poverty in the United Kingdom in 1995 and 13% in Italy in 1999. The impact of poverty is not equally distributed among the poor. Women make up 70% of the world population living in absolute poverty. Children account for around half of the poor in central Asia. Unemployment as a cause of poverty and ill health is a major pan-European issue. In the CCEE, the scale of this problem has reached an alarmingly high level in the past decade. Unemployment has been estimated at well over 20% in Kyrgyzstan and 30% in Tajikistan and Macedonia. Though the magnitude and the context differ, unemployment has also been a significant problem in western Europe in recent decades. An analysis of the unemployment situation in the European Union (EU) shows a sharp increase from 3% in the early 1970s to approximately 11% by mid-1990, with an overall EU average of 8.6% by April 2001. The impact of unemployment and poverty on children and young people, in both western and eastern Europe, is of particular importance. Youth unemployment is often associated with social and health problems such as violence, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, and crime. In 1998, the youth unemployment rates in 18 CCEE were about double the overall unemployment rates. This unfortunate trend is also seen in many western European countries. Poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Many countries formerly part of the Communist bloc (the Communist countries of eastern Europe), including those of the former Soviet Union, have relatively high levels of poverty. Historians and economists blame the legacy of Communism for much of the poverty in these countries. Communist governments owned and distributed most of their countries’ property and resources. Leaders of these governments proclaimed the benefits of this centralized system, but many people who lived under Communism experienced lower standards of living than people who lived in countries with democratic governments and free-market economies, such as the United States and the nations of western Europe. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, poverty in much of eastern Europe and Central Asia has increased. The number of people living in extreme poverty in these areas grew from 1.1 million in 1987 to an estimated 17.6 million in 1998. The fall of Communism ended a political and economic system in which all people had been virtually guaranteed jobs and basic needs, such as food and housing. Sudden uncertainty about the future led to decreases in the value of currencies in all formerly Communist countries. Wars and instability ravaged many of these countries. In the most devastating conflict, the former Yugoslavia erupted in violent civil war in 1991. In several formerly Communist countries, political and economic upheaval has led to a wide array of problems, including a dramatic increase in the number of orphaned children. The high number of orphans has stretched the capacity of orphanages, and many orphans live in extreme poverty and suffer from malnutrition, disease, and starvation. Fifty-million European children poverty-stricken A new report suggests that as many as fifty-million children may be living in poverty in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The study, from the European Children's Trust, was based on figures gathered between 1993 and 1995. It says many families are having to leave their children in state orphanages as they are unable to feed them. And it warns that, with winter approaching, the situation is likely to deteriorate. The Trust says a crisis has been building since the old communist system disappeared, with more than a-hundred-and-sixty-million people living below the poverty line in recent years -- twelve times more than at the collapse of communism. The report says Western countries should help expand services preventing family breakdown instead of providing direct aid. The report says eighty-eight percent of the population in Kyrgyzstan live in poverty, while the figure is more than sixty percent in Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Child Poverty Has Grown in Eastern Europe Since 1989 More children are living in poverty in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union today than when the Berlin Wall fell despite a decade of economic expansion in the region according to the United Nations Children's Fund. In a stark 192-page report, A Decade of Transition, Unicef says nearly 18 million children in this region are living on less than $2.15 (£1.50) a day – a World Bank yardstick for poverty. It also points to a rising number of children ending up in institutions or being put up for adoption by families who are pushed into poverty when the value of their wages falls. The children's agency says poverty has risen sharply since the countries left Communism in 1989, though no direct comparisons could be made because poverty statistics were not recorded before then. The huge majority of the poor children – 16 million – live in former Soviet Union countries, and a further two million are in central and eastern Europe. In Moldova, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the majority of children are poor. The report found huge disparities in the situation of children across 27 countries in the area, and called for child poverty to be made centre-stage in national policy debate. One positive finding was that levels of child mortality were beginning to fall in some countries. "However, millions continue to suffer from poverty, ill-health and marginalization," Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's executive director, said. The agency says the number of children in the region – 108 million – is about 13 per cent down from 1989 because of a drop in births. Marriage rates have fallen and the proportion of children born out of wedlock have doubled to 22 per cent. Rises in adoption and institutionalization go hand in hand, the report says, citing Belarus, where the rate of adoption rose by 160 per cent from 1989 to 1999, and the proportion of infants under three in children's homes rose by 170 per cent. Decreases in domestic adoptions in Russia were countered by rises in international adoptions. The report found a growing gap in health conditions among the 27 countries examined. In Russia and Ukraine, for example, one child in seven was malnourished, while in Albania, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the figure rose to one in three. Falling education standards were revealed, with less than half of 15 to 18-year-olds attending secondary school in central Asia, compared with two-thirds attending in 1991. "Fundamental freedoms have been recognized in most countries – the right to vote, to express and opinion, to use one's own initiative and enterprise," Ms Bellamy said. "But we must not forget the original goals of the transition, to raise the standard of living and to develop humane and democratic societies. These goals need to be reaffirmed.".
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