© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Naples
ROME (Reuters) – The number of Italian families living in absolute poverty decreased in 2019 after four years of growth, although there is still a significant problem in the underdeveloped south, as data on Tuesday showed.
Approximately 4.6 million people, or 7.7% of the population, live in absolute poverty, defined as those who, according to the National Statistics Office, cannot buy goods and services that are essential to avoid serious forms of social exclusion.
In terms of families, the number was 1.7 million, after 1.8 million in 2018.
Around a million families benefited from a "Citizens Income" program for the poor, which was supported by the ruling 5-star movement against the establishment. ISTAT said in 2019 that the poor increased their spending after this welfare reform.
However, the COVID 19 crisis will inevitably affect poverty in 2020. The epidemic brought Italy to its knees and forced the government to curb business nationwide to curb infections.
The Bank of Italy said the euro zone's third largest economy would shrink by around 9.2% in 2020 and predicted a partial recovery next year.
In May, after two months of rigid blocking, the government approved spending measures to support families and businesses, including new subsidies for people with no income or pension.
According to ISTAT, 8.6% of families in the south lived in absolute poverty last year, compared to 10% in 2018. Compared to 5.8% in the north and 4.5% in the central regions, including the capital Rome.
Italians living in "relative poverty" – those whose disposable income is less than half the national average – have remained stable, declining from 15% in 2018 to around 14.7% of the population.
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