A new UNICEF report finds dramatic increases in child poverty in Spain. One in 3 children is reported to live in poverty or “at risk of social exclusion, and the school dropout rate is nearly 25%.” Due to the financial crisis, Spain has seen very high unemployment, falling to 23.7% in the third quarter of 2014. This is one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.
Child Poverty and School Dropout
Child poverty has become an issue of utmost importance in Spain; as detailed by a recent Unicef report, Spain, Greece and Italy have had the highest increase in child poverty between 2008 and 2012. PorCausa, “a Spanish foundation that combines social research, data analysis, and investigative journalism,” further elaborates on the findings, comparing the EU average of 27.6% children living poverty to the Spain average of 32.6% children living in poverty. Analysis of the data evidences children as most victim to effects of the financial crisis of any age group.
In certain regions of Spain, the poverty is even greater. In Andalusia, for example, the unemployment rate is as high as 35.2%.
The Unicef report examines the emergence of child poverty and its link to rates of school dropout. They project that even short terms of living in poverty can result in long-term consequences. Spain currently has the highest drop-out rates among countries in the EU for 18-24 year olds. Spain has additionally cut child-related spending 15% since 2010.
Alongside the report of high child poverty and dropout rates, students have been protesting the Organic Law to Improve Education Quality Bill (LOMCE), purported to both cut down scholarships and increase tuition fees in higher education. Demonstrators have marched across 43 cities in Spain, demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister of Education, Jose Ignacio Wert. The dropout rates may be correlated with the increase in university fees, which have risen by 50%. More than 45,000 students have left or foregone university because of the newly high tuition.
I would be remiss to ignore possible correlation between the high dropout rates and increasing unemployment resulting in impoverishment. While correlation doesn’t mean causation, findings raise the question, how will the new bill aid student retention? The government defends the bill, arguing that the reform will improve education standards and reduce the public deficit. However, if unemployment has resulted in poverty, and less students can afford to go to school, shouldn’t the government focus attention on making education more affordable, as opposed to increasing fees? With such high rates of child poverty, unemployment and school drop-outs, the government must focus on strategies to produce and maintain an employable citizenry, starting with the school-age population.
Sedghi, A. (2014, October 28). Poverty and education: A ‘lost decade’ for Spain’s children. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/28/poverty-and-education-a-lost-decade-for-spains-children
Students Protest in Spain for 3 Consecutive Days. (2014, October 23). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Students-Protest-in-Spain-for-3-Consecutive-Days-20141023-0034.html
2.6 million more children plunged into poverty in rich countries during Great Recession. (2014, October 28). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_76447.html
Sherwood, H. (2014, October 28). Child poverty up in more than half of developed world since 2008. Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/28/child-poverty-developed-world-unicef-report-global-recession
Benítez, I. (2014, November 1). Child Poverty in Spain Seen Through the Eyes of Encarni. Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/child-poverty-in-spain-seen-through-the-eyes-of-encarni/