Being young is one of the factors of social exclusion that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light, which after almost two years has left eleven million people in this situation, 2.7 million of them young people from between 16 and 34 years old. The health crisis has also doubled job insecurity, which reaches almost two million households.
These are some of the conclusions of the report ‘Evolution of social cohesion and consequences of COVID-19 in Spain’, prepared by the Foessa Foundation and presented this Tuesday by Cáritas, which warns of the “deepening” of the inequality gap in the Spanish society, in which the great victims of COVID-19 have been the weakest, “to whom the so-called social shield has not reached”.
“Each crisis increases inequality and the impact of this has been serious and severe”, underlined the general secretary of Cáritas Española, Natalia Peiro, who has detailed that, of the eleven million people that the pandemic has left in social exclusion, six million are in a situation of severe poverty, which is 2.5 million more than in 2018 and the highest figure recorded in Spain since 2007.
In 2021, more than 650,000 new young people (16-34 years old) were added to exclusion, the majority in a severe situation, which is 500,000 more than in 2018 and brings a total of 1.4 million young people in a severe situation .
At a generational level, the exclusion rate of the population under 30 years of age is slightly more than three times higher than that of the population over 65 years of age, and the severe exclusion rate is multiplied by five between both age groups.
Young Spaniards have already suffered two economic crises
“For young people it is the second blow in a short time. They have experienced two crises in a row, which has taken away many opportunities in an essential phase of their lives”, lamented the coordinator of the Caritas Study Team and technical secretary of Foessa, Raúl Flores, who has indicated that “those who were 18 years old in 2008 have been reached by the 2020 crisis at 30 years old.”
According to the research, based on a survey of 7,000 households, job insecurity during the health crisis has doubled and reaches almost 2 million households that depend economically on a main breadwinner, who suffers serious job instability (with three or more contracts in a year or who has worked in three or more companies or who has been unemployed for three or more months in the year).
A situation that during the COVID-29 crisis has reached 800,000 families, and total family unemployment has almost doubled; that is to say, there are almost two million households where all the active people are unemployed.
Despite the increase in social protection, it has not been possible to compensate for this situation and a third of these households (600,000) lack some type of regular income that would allow a certain stability.
“There has been a worsening of working conditions that generates more poor workers and poorer workers and less fulfilled personally and socially,” Flores stressed, adding that in terms of income, the report reveals that the difference between the population with more and less income has increased by more than 25%, a figure higher than the increase it had during the 2008 crisis.
Three out of ten families have cut spending on food and clothing
The pandemic has also increased the gender gap by having more impact on more feminized sectors, such as commerce or hospitality, so that social exclusion in households headed by women has gone from 18% in 2018 to 26% in 2021, an increase that multiplies by 2.5 that registered during the same period in the case of men (they went from 15% to 18%).
In addition to age and gender, nationality is another factor of social exclusion: 50.3% of households with foreigners are in this situation (almost three times higher than in Spanish households).
Over 700 pages, the report uncovers a new factor of social exclusion: digital disconnection, “the new illiteracy of the 21st century”: almost half of the households in social exclusion suffer from the digital blackout, which means that 1.8 Millions experience this gap on a daily basis, especially households made up only of people over 65 years of age and people who live alone.
The pandemic has also left its mark on the usual expenses of families: three out of ten families have been forced to reduce the money spent on food, clothing and footwear, which is multiplied by two among households suffering from social exclusion.
Faced with the image of passivity that families in vulnerable situations have, Flores has highlighted that their level of activation is very high, including those that receive aid, which, in his opinion, demonstrates the “falsity of the supposed effect disincentive of the benefits system”.
From Cáritas and Foessa they believe that there is a “wide margin for improvement”, but for this they consider it necessary to “perfect” the social protection system and propose, among other measures, to improve the coverage of the minimum vital income, already of the 850,000 beneficiary households foreseen , it has been received by nearly 316,000 households; that is, an average of 2 beneficiaries for every 10 in a situation of severe poverty.
They are also committed to implementing measures that reduce the hyper-flexibility of employment, complementing low wages with other redistributive measures, guaranteeing a quality public health system, implementing policies against residential exclusion, as well as overcoming the educational gap caused by the digital blackout and move towards social services adapted to current social realities.