Portuguese Church groups are warning that although the number of poor people in the country is on the decline, it is still “very disturbing” that “nearly 20% of young people are at risk of poverty”.

Driving the news

Data released by the Pordata Foundation on Wednesday, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, revealed that the level of poverty in Portugal has fallen from 20.4% in 2003 to 17.3% in 2017.

The figures mean that about 500,000 Portuguese people have emerged out of poverty since the hardest-hitting years of economic crisis.

But for Eugénio Fonseca and Henrique Joaquim, President of Church charity Caritas and director of Catholic anti-poverty group Comunidade Vida e Paz respectively, there’s still more work to be done.

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Go deeper

Joaquim welcomed the “improvement” in overall poverty levels which he put down to “the strengthening of social protection measures”.

But he added that “highlighting a positive trend cannot result in us slowing down our fight against the phenomenon”.

“Rather, it should make our strategies more adapted to real-life situations”, such as through “local and flexible solutions, focused on people”, the director of Comunidade Vida e Paz explained.

Joaquim said the economic and financial situation of young people was of particular concern.

“It’s a powder keg: what conditions do they have for thinking about a future of family and continuity? If they can’t have their life assured, how are they going to think about the future?”, Joaquim lamented.

The director of Comunidade Vida e Paz added that current anti-poverty measures “are focused on the system, not on the person”.

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Why it matters

For his part, Caritas President Fonseca said the charity is attending more and more “working poor” not picked up by official poverty indicators, which Europe-wide set the poverty level at income of less than 460 euros per month.

That level “should be revised”, Fonseca said.

“We all know that it is insufficient”.

“A country that has citizens living in worse conditions than animals is not a democratic nor developed country”, Fonseca denounced.

“Portugal is in the group of developed countries, integrated in a European Union that has been concerned more with economic questions than with the purposes for which it was created”, the President of Caritas deplored.

For Fonseca, the principal problem is a “poor distribution of the wealth produced” in the EU but especially in Portugal, in which country he called for a national debate on the subject.

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