Italy’s Poverty Reaches Decade-High Despite Economic Rebound

Despite an economic rebound following the easing of COVID-linked restrictions, Italy witnessed a concerning surge in poverty levels in 2023, reaching its highest point in about a decade, according to data released by the national statistics bureau ISTAT on Monday.

The report revealed that the number of individuals living in “absolute poverty,” defined as those unable to afford essential goods and services for an acceptable standard of living, rose to 5.75 million, encompassing 9.8% of the population. This figure marks a marginal increase from 9.7% in 2022 and represents the highest level recorded since the inception of the current data series in 2014.

Italy’s economic recovery from the COVID-induced recession of 2020-21 has been relatively robust compared to neighbouring countries like Germany and France. However, the rebound, accompanied by increased employment rates, has failed to alleviate the plight of the country’s poorest citizens, as indicated by the ISTAT report.

During the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, when the recession’s impact on households was mitigated by government-support measures, the percentage of individuals in absolute poverty stood at 9.1% and 9.0%, respectively.


The gradual escalation of poverty levels has been a persistent trend, with figures steadily rising from 6.9% in 2014, reflecting deep-rooted socioeconomic challenges facing the nation.

The report also highlighted regional disparities in poverty rates, with the historically poorer south bearing the brunt of the crisis. In 2023, absolute poverty rates were reported at 9.0% in the north, 8.0% in the centre, and 12.1% in the southern regions.

Despite a slight decrease in poverty levels in the south, the data indicated an increase in the north and centre compared to the previous year.

The exacerbation of poverty comes against the backdrop of policy changes, including the phasing out the “citizens’ income” poverty-relief subsidy initiated in 2019 under the right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni. Despite warnings from economists and the Bank of Italy regarding its impact on the vulnerable population, the scheme was scrapped at the beginning of 2023 and replaced by a more limited subsidy targeting those physically unable to work.

As Italy grapples with persistent poverty challenges, policymakers face mounting pressure to implement effective strategies to address socioeconomic disparities and safeguard the well-being of the most vulnerable segments of society.


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