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Austerity Threatens to Push 25 Million More Into Poverty: Report

Oxfam issues "A Cautionary Tale" to show how austerity in Europe is fueling inequality, rolling back social rights

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Austerity could push up to 25 million more Europeans into poverty by 2025, the charity Oxfam warns in a new report.

The austerity policies pursued over the last three years—policies that harken back to the "ruinous structural adjustment policies imposed on Latin America, South-East Asia, and sub-Saharan African in the 1980s and 1990s"—have attacked and privatized public services and eroded collective bargaining systems, and left soaring unemployment and worsened inequality.

“Europe’s handling of the economic crisis [by choosing austerity] threatens to roll back decades of social rights," stated Natalia Alonso, Head of Oxfam’s EU office. 

Calling austerity "moral and economic nonsense," Alonso warned that "Aggressive cuts to social security, health and education, fewer rights for workers and unfair taxation are trapping millions of Europeans in a circle of poverty that could last for generations."

Without a change off the austerity course, up to 146 million people, over a quarter of the population, could be at risk of poverty.

There have been winners, Oxfam states in its report, A Cautionary Tale, and the gap between the winners and losers shows how austerity has fueled inequality.

“The only people benefiting from austerity are the richest 10% of Europeans who alone have seen their wealth rise," Alonso said.

"Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK – countries that are most aggressively pursuing austerity measures - will soon rank amongst the most unequal in the world if their leaders don’t change course. For example, the gap between rich and poor in the UK and Spain could become the same as in South Sudan or Paraguay,” she added.

And, the report states, "Women will be the hardest hit."  The report explains that

As women are more likely to be responsible for the car e of children and other dependents, they are disproportionately affected by cuts to child benefit, housing benefit, disability benefits, or other types of welfare payment , limiting their access to the job market.

The scathing report states that austerity has been nothing short of a total failure:

...after almost three years of implementation, austerity is failing even on its own terms – increasing deficits in some countries and raising debt levels – let alone in terms of the huge, unevenly distributed human costs.

Oxfam concludes that

This is a crisis that exposes an imbalance of power: the dysfunctional financial systems that caused the crisis have largely escaped unscathed, but the costs of their actions have been borne by everyone, with the most vulnerable bearing the heaviest burden.

But it doesn't have to be this way, Oxfam says.  Instead of austerity, the group says Europe should pursue alternatives that invest in public services, including high quality healthcare and education, employment creation, democracy and a fairer tax system including a Financial Transaction Tax.

The full report can be read below:


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