Poverty in Romania

This Monday Questia Group focuses on attitudes towards people at risk of poverty and social inclusion. Our research was made through an online survey on our platform www.questia.ro covering 1,145 respondents. The survey was active between the 17th and 19th of January 2017. Our findings are presented below.

Short overview on poverty

The most recent data regarding people at risk of poverty or social exclusion come from 2013 and 2014 from the EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) In 2014, 122.3 million people, or 24.4% of the population in the EU-28 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE), compared with 24.5% in 2013. Those who are at risk of poverty and social exclusion were at least in one of the following conditions:

Regarding the data at the EU level, there are variations between the Member States: for instance, in Romania, the rate of poverty is the highest (40.2%), followed by Bulgaria (40.1%) and Greece (36.0%). The lowest shares of persons being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were recorded in Finland (17.3%), Sweden (16.9%), the Netherlands (16.5%) and the Czech Republic (14.8%).

Out of these, children were at greater risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2014 (27.8% in the EU-28) than the rest of the population in 20 of the 28 EU Member States. The largest gaps between children and the total population The largest gaps between children and the total population were observed in Romania (51.0%), Hungary (41.4%) and Malta (31.3%); the situation was relatively better for children than adults in Denmark (14.5%), Finland (15.6%), Sweden (16.7%).

The risk of poverty or social exclusion faced by people aged 65 or more in 2014 ranged from 6.4% in Luxembourg to 34.0% in Romania and 47.8 % in Bulgaria. These differences depend on several factors including the features of the pension systems for current pensioners and the age and gender structure of the elderly population since elderly women and the very old tend to face much higher risks in some countries. (More on this issue here).

Added to these categories, other groups are considered at risk of poverty or social exclusion : the population at risk of poverty after social transfers (17.2% of the population in the EU-28 in 2014; 25.4% in Romania); those with low work intensity (11.1% of the population in the EU-28 in 2014) and those materially deprived (9.0% at the level of EU-28; 26.3% in Romania). Also, in Romania, there are the working poor - more than two million people in the Romanian economy are working in and living on subsistence agriculture).

Findings

In our survey, we wanted to know what are Romanians’ attitudes towards people at risk of poverty and social inclusion. The data are quite interesting, as follows.

Most respondents (50.3%) consider that the poor are poor through no fault of their own: no matter what they try, they cannot escape poverty by their own effort; while 39.8% consider that the poor are poor through their own fault (because they refuse to educate themselves, to find a job and so on). A percentage of 9.9% don’t know or didn’t answer the question. These findings suggest that poverty is perceived by most respondents to be something of an inherent condition, caused by social-economic factors and not by one’s fault.

A deeper understanding of the issue of poverty involves considering individual factors such as lack of education (skills, experience), health conditions, age, ethnicity and a certain culture of poverty; and aggregate factors (case and generic) involving employment opportunities, macro-problems and policies combating the phenomenon as well as low nation income. According to the more than two million people in the Romanian economy are working in and living on subsistence agriculture there are various institutional approaches to poverty, as well as policies, programs, and legal instruments to tackle the problem. More on this issue here.

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Moreover, the majority of the respondents (86.7%) consider that the state must intervene through specific measures the help the poor out of poverty, while only 8.2% consider that the state must not intervene in any way to help the poor out of poverty (Charity measures coming from the wealthy are enough); while 5.1% refused to answer.

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These findings are consistent with each other and suggest that people opt for a state which deals with the problems of the poor, offering better public policies and concrete actions to combat the phenomenon, especially in a country that has the highest poverty rate in the EU. This means not only social transfers but also better housing conditions, minimum wage, fairer access to education and healthcare system and generally public policies that have a direct impact on people’s lives.

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