Quarter of Europeans on the Brink of Ruin, New Survey Finds
Working people across Europe and North America are struggling to make ends meet as the cost-of-living crisis prompted by sanctions and embargoes on Russian energy imports. Petrol and diesel pump prices have almost doubled and energy bills have multiplied, with a knock-on inflationary effect on other goods.
More than a quarter of Europeans say they are in a “precarious” financial state and half fear they soon will be, according to a new poll.
The six-nation survey by Ipsos for French poverty NGO Secours Populaire (People’s Aid) found that 27 percent were in financial dire straits, defined as “one unexpected expenditure could change everything,” while 55 percent said they had to be careful with spending to avoid getting into the same position.
It also found that 54 percent of 6,000 people polled in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and the UK had seen the purchasing power of their income fall over the past three years.
Almost nine out of 10 cited rising prices for food, fuel, heating and rent — now going through the roof thanks to Western sanctions on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine — as the reasons for their declining prosperity. Three in 10 said rising taxes had contributed to their predicament.
“When winter comes, we know that many families will not be able to pay their energy bills,” said Greta Barbolini from Italian charity ARCI, a partner of Secours Populaire.
Greece, already languishing under four rounds of European Union (EU) financial bail-outs and the austerity conditions that came with them, was unsurprisingly the hardest hit. More than two-thirds of Greeks said their spending clout had fallen “a lot” or “somewhat”.
For France, where punitive taxes on diesel fuel sparked the ongoing ‘Yellow Vests’ protests from November 2018, the figure was 63 percent. In Italy 57 percent had seen their relative wealth fall, compared to 54 percent of Germans, 48 percent of Britons and 38 percent of Poles.
Fully fourth-fifths of respondents said they hade been forced to make difficult budgeting choices. Three-fifths had cut back on travel costs, almost half had turned their household heating off to save money and a third had skipped medical care.
The section of society most at risk varied from country to country. In Germany and Poland it was overwhelmingly the elderly, at around 60 percent. But Greece and Italy, young people accounted for most of the hardest hit at 57 percent and 45 percent, while in the UK 55 per cent of those struggling to make ends meet were single-parent families.
“We are worried about the young, the retired and the working poor as the drop in prices is not in sight,” said Sergo Kuruliszwili from the French charity’s Polish partner PKPS.
Worryingly, two-thirds of those polled did not know what expense they could cut next if they had to make further savings. More than a quarter were overdrawn at the bank by the middle of each month, and roughly the same proportion said they were “afraid of losing their home”.