Analysis. The risk of poverty and social exclusion has reached 28.7% of Italians in 2015 — more than 17 million people.

Italy’s referendum was about more than politics: It was poverty

We are in 2015. It was the time of the Triumphant Demolition Man: Matteo Renzi should resign because 60 percent of Italians have rejected his constitutional reform. But not only for that. This is the year of review for Istat, the National Institute for Statistics, whose report on poverty and income inequality published was Tuesday.

While the government was spinning the narrative of a successful politician 17,469,000 people (28.7 percent of the population) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, 11.5 percent were in severe material deprivation and 11.7 percent lived with poorly paid and precarious work.

The overall level of poverty (28.3 percent) was four points higher than the E.U. average of 24.4 percent. The poverty in Italy is second only to Romania (40.2 percent) and Greece (36.0 percent) and is surpassed by Spain, Croatia and Portugal.

One in every four Italians was — and is — at risk of poverty and exclusion. The critical issues are more acute for larger families (three or more children) that in just one year have passed from 39.4 percent in 2014 to 48.3 percent in 2015 and reached 51.2 percent for families with three or more children.

The disconnect between social reality and the government on the way out increased, while the income gap kept widening. The population was divided into five slices. Istat says that between 2009 and 2014, the income expressed in real terms declined more for those families in the poorest 20 percent, and the gap with the wealthiest families increased from 4.6 to 4.9 times that of the poorest. The Gini index, the indicator that measures income inequality, has registered a value of 0.324. The E.U. average is 0.310. Italy is in the 16th position with the United Kingdom. The only ones worse off are Portugal, Greece and Spain. The Gini index is higher in the South and the Islands (0.334) than in the central regions (0.311) and North (0.293).

The referendum rejection was also explained by social and economic reasons. In this analysis, we can add the data on material deprivation. According to Istat, deprivation remained “stable” between 2014 and 2015 (11.6 percent and 11.5 percent respectively). The percentage of families who could not afford a week’s holiday away from home decreased (from 49.5 percent to 47.3 percent), as well as those who could not afford a proper meal (ie with animal or vegetarian protein) at least every two days (from 12.6 percent to 11.8 percent).

But the proportion of families who could not afford an unexpected expense of € 800 increased (from 38.8 percent to 39.9 percent) like those who have difficulties in paying the mortgage, rent, bills or other debts (from 14.3 percent to 14.9 percent). Presumably, the €80 income tax bonus (10 billion per year) helped with this, and have offset the loss of income and wages incurred during the crisis years by the 17,985 families (42,987 individuals) taken from the analysis. But only for those with employment, ie a “fixed” contract making between €8 and 26 thousand euro. It did not help independent workers, unemployed, and pensioners. Very few took the time to dwell in this little detail in these two years.

The government that pledged to “innovate” the country, has actually confirmed a traditional Italian discrimination between those who have a permanent job and subcontractors. The former got the €80, but the latter did not. The crisis has hit hard on the self-employed. Istat also reported a sharp fall of subcontractor compensation that on average has fallen by about 28 percent in real terms since 2009, compared with a reduction of about 8 percent of labor compensation and 7 percent of income from pensions and government transfers, while investment income declined by about 4 percent.

The South voted massively against Renzi. And the map of the inequalities created by Istat explains why: the South is still the area most at risk of poverty: in 2015, the percentage of people under the poverty line increased from 45.6 percent to 46.4 percent compared to 2014, the year the prodigy went to Palazzo Chigi. The highest values were recorded in Sicily (55.4 percent), Puglia (47.8 percent) and Campania (46.1 percent). The lowest percentages are found in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (14.5 percent) and Emilia-Romagna (15.4 percent). Significant worsening was observed in Puglia (+7.5), Umbria (+6.6), Marche (+3.4) and Lazio (+2.3). It is also interesting to note that the real boom was recorded in central Italy, where the share rose from 22.1 percent to 24 percent, but it affected less than a quarter of the people.

The number of poor has doubled in 10 years. In 2015, there were 4,598,000 residents in a position of absolute poverty were, the highest number since 2005. It is a recurring aspect in all neo-feudal societies where global wealth is concentrated in 10 percent of the richest and 1 percent of the “super-rich.” The Renzi government resigns without having implemented even one law against poverty. It ignored the decision on minimum income. Along with Greece, Italy is the only E.U. country not to have it. They called it “innovation.”

How Istat defines “poverty and social exclusion risk”

Any person who finds him or herself in at least one of these three situations, is at risk of poverty or social exclusion: live below the poverty threshold of €9,508 per year (family of one adult); to be in severe material deprivation, for example, is in arrears on payments, is not able to sustain unforeseen expenses, cannot buy a phone, a car, a washing machine or a TV; cannot afford to have a protein meal every two days. The poverty risk includes those living in low work intensity households with members aged between 18 and 59 years who in 2014 worked less than a fifth of the time (excluding students between 18 and 24 years).

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