According to official figures, 4.7 million Italians live in absolute poverty. The number is 144,000 up on 2015
Poverty remains high in Italy, and is slightly up on 2015, with larger families the worst hit. According to figures published by Italian statistics institute ISTAT, 1.619m Italian families were living in absolute poverty in 2016, for a total of 4.742m people, 144,000 more than in 2015. In relation to the number of households (25.7m) and resident population (60m), 6.3% of households were living in conditions of absolute poverty (compared to 6.1% in 2015). This amounted to 7.9% of the population (7.6% in 2015). For ISTAT, absolute poverty means being unable to buy a basket of goods and services “essential to a minimum acceptable standard of living”, which varies according to size of family, age and geographical location. The biggest difference compared to 2015 was seen in families with three or more children under the age of 18. In these families, the rate of absolute poverty was 26.8% in 2016, compared to 18.3% the previous year. Poverty was also up in Central Italy, especially in medium-small council districts (those with up to 50,000 inhabitants). The inverse relationship between absolute poverty and age was confirmed, with the rate of poverty dropping with rising age. The lowest levels of poverty were found in families where the head of the household was over 64 (3.9%), and the highest in those families where the main breadwinner was under 35 (10.4%). A person’s job also makes a huge difference. In working-class families, absolute poverty is double the average, at 12.6%, while among office workers and those with middle-management posts, the rate drops to 1.5%. Going back in time, compared with 2005, a striking difference was seen in the higher levels of absolute poverty among children, which rose from 3.9% to 12.5%, and among young adults, which also tripled (from 3.1% to 10%).
ISTAT also calculated relative poverty, which is when a family’s spending power is no higher than half the average. For example, for a family of two, this would mean spending power no greater than a single person’s average expenditure, i.e. €1,061 per month in 2016. Relative poverty affected 10.6% of households (10.4% in 2015), i.e. 2.734m, accounting for a total of 8.465m people and 14% of the resident population (13.7% in 2015). As with absolute poverty, relative poverty increases with family size, reaching 30.9% among families with five or more members. It also affects young families, reaching 14.6% among those in which the main breadwinner is under 35. In working-class families, the rate is 18.7%, and 31% in those where the breadwinner is unemployed. After the reform introduced by the Renzi government to fight poverty, a new system of income supplements costing €1.7bn is set to come into force in 2018, with entitled families receiving between €190 and €485. By the end of 2017, “the number of families entitled to income supplements will rise from 100,000 to 200,000, estimated at over 800,000 people, of which over 400,000 are children,” said Employment Minister Giuliano Poletti.