Austerity Brings Poverty, Despair, 'Quiet Desperation' to Europe: Report

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by
Common Dreams

Austerity Brings Poverty, Despair, 'Quiet Desperation' to Europe: Report

'We wonder if we as a continent really understand what has hit us'

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Austerity policies are bringing poverty, despair, and wretchedness to Europe, spelling out a dismal future of deepening unemployment, inequality, and desperation for countries across the continent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies show in a searing 68-page study released exclusively to the Guardian.

"As the economic crisis has planted its roots, millions of Europeans live with insecurity, uncertain about what the future holds," the study reads, according to The Guardian Thursday. "This is one of the worst psychological states of mind for human beings. We see quiet desperation spreading among Europeans, resulting in depression, resignation and loss of hope. Compared to 2009, millions more find themselves queuing for food, unable to buy medicine nor access healthcare. Millions are without a job and many of those who still have work face difficulties to sustain their families due to insufficient wages and skyrocketing prices."

The study—which used a mass survey to map the 28 countries of the EU plus 14 more in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and central Asia—shows that the crisis touches not only bailed-out countries in the south of Europe and Ireland, but also the so-called successful countries like Germany and "wealthy" countries like Denmark.

Ian Traynor with the Guardian describes the grim picture painted by the study:

Mass unemployment – especially among the young, 120 million Europeans living in or at risk of poverty – increased waves of illegal immigration clashing with rising xenophobia in the host countries, growing risks of social unrest and political instability estimated to be two to three times higher than most other parts of the world, greater levels of insecurity among the traditional middle classes – all combine to make a European future more uncertain than at any time in the postwar era.

The report traces a litany of horrors that include

  • A doubling of suicide rates among women in Greece
  • Workers in Slovenia being denied their wages for months
  • 350,000 people in France falling beneath poverty levels between 2008 and 2011
  • 600,000 workers in Germany not earning enough to live on last year
  • 13 percent of the population of Baltic states and Hungary have left their countries due to the grim economic landscape
  • Youth unemployment rates ranging between 33 percent and 60 percent in one quarter of countries surveyed

Yet, the authors warn that the long-term effects of austerity and economic decline on the continent are still unknown. "The long-term consequences of this crisis have yet to surface," the report reads. "The problems caused will be felt for decades even if the economy turns for the better in the near future … We wonder if we as a continent really understand what has hit us."

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