1 in 7 Belgians is poor

20th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Almost 15 percent of the Belgian population is living below the poverty line.

20 October 2008

Brussels - On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, central Brussels hosted  a number of events to draw attention to poverty in Belgian society.

According to European statistics, one in seven Belgians (or almost  15 percent of the Belgian population) is living below the poverty line.

The minimum benefit jobless people are entitled to is currently 711 euros a month. The Flemish association for the fight against poverty wants to have this raised to 860 euros, a 21 percent rise.

"No money for the poor, billions for the banks"

However, the government has promised only a 2 percent rise for next year. State Secretary responsible for the fight against poverty, Jean-Marc Delizée (Francophone Socialist), says the government cannot act immediately.

"My aim is to have nobody living below the poverty line", Mr Delizée explains. "This costs a lot of money though and we will not be able to achieve this goal in one year. I think it will take some years to close the gap, but I will support such a plan year after year."

Anke Hintjes of the Flemish Network for Poverty is disappointed. "They say there is no money, but at the same we see that billions of euros can be found for the banks in a couple of weeks. This is really shocking."

No teeth since a year and a half

Many people living below the poverty threshold can't afford decent housing or basic needs. One woman explained that she has been living without teeth for almost a year and a half. "I simply can't afford new teeth. It's too expensive."

Johnny now has a job, but he used to be homeless. "It was a daily struggle to survive, to find a toilet, something to eat, a dry spot to sleep. Time and again. I was lucky because it happened during summer, but it's even tougher in winter."

Nele says the poor should get more respect from people. "The poor are often stigmatised. They can't do anything, they are lazy, stupid, dirty... But that's not true. They simply don't get a chance."

When is someone considered poor?

In the European Union someone is considered poor when he or she has an income below 860 euros.

For families with two adults and two children, the poverty threshold has been set at 1,805 euros per month.

In Belgium, 14.7 percent of the population do not meet these minimum standards. Most at risk are those who have no job (the unemployed or pensioners), people living alone or single-parent families.

[flandersnews.be / Expatica]

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