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Poverty hits record high amid recession

Absolute poverty double since 2005, triple in north

30 December, 19:30
Poverty hits record high amid recession (By Elisa Cecchi).

(ANSA) - Rome, December 30 - The number of people in crisis-hit Italy living in absolute poverty has doubled between 2005 and 2012 and tripled in the industrial north, up to 6.4% from 2.5%, according to an annual report on social cohesion by national statistics bureau Istat released on Monday.

Overall, more than 1.7 million families live in a state of absolute poverty for a total of 4.8 million individuals amid rising unemployment and a stubborn recession, Istat said.

Households or individuals are classified as living below the poverty line when their monthly expenditure does not enable them to acquire goods and services considered essential for a an acceptable standard of living, the report said.

Such a threshold varies according to geographical location and the number of household members and their age.

Istat noted earlier this year for example that the percentage of Italian families with three or more children living in absolute poverty jumped to 16.2% last year from 10.4% in 2011 while the number of single-parent families in absolute poverty jumped to 9.1% from 5.8% the previous year.

The report on social cohesion released on Monday also highlighted that 12.7% of families and 15.8% of individuals living in Italy suffered from relative poverty in 2012, the highest level since 1997 when the bureau started recording poverty levels in the country.

Overall, 3.2 million families - or 9.5 million individuals - lived in relative poverty in 2012.

The relative poverty threshold was measured by Istat as an average monthly budget for a two-member household which did not exceed 990,88 euros last year.

Italy has seen the risk-of-poverty rate rise to almost 30% in 2012, according to the 'Europe 2020' report, the highest recorded in Europe after Greece, the report on social cohesion also noted.

After eight consecutive quarters of negative growth, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) was flat in the July-September period with respect to the previous three months.

The government forecasts that Italy is returning to positive growth in the fourth quarter of this year.

Italian Premier Enrico Letta said earlier this month that he was confident Italy's economy can grow 1% next year and 2% in 2015.

Unemployment in Italy has reached record levels of over 12%, with more than four in 10 under-25s out of work during the recession.

The downturn was made deeper by EU-mandated austerity measures adopted by the emergency technocrat government of Letta's predecessor, Mario Monti, to avert a Greek-style financial meltdown.

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