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Children hit hard by Portugal’s economic woes: UN

Published on October 27, 2014

Children have been hit hard by the economic crisis in Portugal, which escaped bankruptcy in 2011, with family allowances slashed and taxes raised, the UN children's agency said Monday.

“Since the start of the crisis, the inequalities and the poverty levels have grown, especially in large families and single-parent families,” Madalena Marcal Grilo, the UNICEF country director in Portugal, told a news conference.

In 2012, almost 24 percent of Portuguese children lived in homes which had to forsake items such as washing machines and cars, according to a UNICEF study.

Thirty-one percent of large families and 41 percent of single-parent families lived under the poverty level with a monthly income of less than 416 euros ($528) per head.

Children in such households saw their consumption of meat, fish and yoghurt plummet, it said.

Purchases of clothes and shoes fell sharply and these children were often forced to move home as their parents could no longer afford high rents.

“When there is little food my parents deprive themselves to feed us,” a 14-year-old boy Fernando, whose father is unemployed, told UNICEF.

“I’d like to have more toys, more clothes and eat better,” said Jose, 8.

“They express a total lack of hope and some are already speaking of emigrating given the bleak prospects in Portugal,” said Marcal Grilo.

More than 546,000 children were affected by slashed family allowances between 2009 and 2012 — accounting for 30 percent of the total beneficiaries.

State expenses on aiding these families fell by 33 percent in 2011 and then 4 percent in 2012, UNICEF said.

“Another extremely worrying factor is that more than half of the unemployed were not eligible for the dole in 2012,” Marcal Grilo said.

Portugal has set itself on a road towards recovery with a 2015 budget deficit well within EU fiscal limits after pledging to rein in finances.

The country escaped bankruptcy in 2011 thanks to an international bailout of 78 billion euros ($100 billion).