One in five in Spain live in poverty: statistics office

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More than one in five Spaniards live in relative poverty and nearly one-third of households say they struggle to make ends meet, the national statistics office said Thursday.

The proportion of Spaniards living below the poverty line -- defined as making do on less than 60 percent of the average income -- grew to 20.8 percent this year from 19.5 percent in 2009, according to provisional data.

Fully 30.4 percent of all households reported having "difficulty" or "great difficulty" reaching the end of the month within their means, up from 26.2 percent in 2005 when the Spanish economy experienced a property boom.

The percentage of people who said they had been late over the past 12 months with household expenses such as mortgage payments or electricity bills rose to 7.7 percent this year from 4.7 percent in 2005.

The average household income in Spain in 2009 fell 2.9 percent to 25,732 euros (35,695 dollars) a year, meaning households below the poverty line earned less than 15,439 euros annually or 1,287 euros a month.

Incomes were highest in the northern province of Navarre on the border with France and in the Basque region. They were lowest in the western region of Extremadura on the border with Portugal and in Andalusia in the south.

The bursting of the property bubble plunged the Spanish economy, Europe's fifth-largest, into its worst recession in decades in 2008 and sent the unemployment rate soaring to more than 20 percent, the highest in the eurozone.

It emerged from recession during the first quarter of this year with tepid growth of 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent in the second but prospects for the economy remain weak.

The International Monetary Fund predicts the Spanish economy will shrink by 0.3 percent this year and expand by 0.7 percent in 2011.

© 2010 AFP

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