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Italy's poor almost triple in a decade amid economic slumps

[ROME] Italians living below the level of absolute poverty almost tripled over the last decade as the country went through a double-dip, record-long recession.

The absolute poor, or those unable to purchase a basket of necessary goods and services, reached 4.7 million last year, up from almost 1.7 million in 2006, national statistics agency Istat said Thursday.

That is 7.9 per cent of the population, with many of them concentrated in the nation's southern regions.

As Italy went through its deepest, and then its longest, recession since World War II between 2008 and 2013, more than a quarter of the nation's industrial production was wiped out.

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Over the same period unemployment also rose, with the rate rising to as high as 13 per cent in 2014 from a low of 5.7 per cent in 2007. Joblessness was at 11.3 per cent at last check in May.

For decades, Italy has grappled with a low fertility rate - just 1.35 children per woman compared with a 1.58 average across the 28-nation European union as of 2015, the last year for which comparable data are available.

"The poverty report shows how it is pointless to wonder why there are fewer newborn in Italy," said Gigi De Palo, head of Italy's Forum of Family Associations.

"Making a child means becoming poor, it seems like in Italy children are not seen as a common good."

The number of absolute poor rose last year in the younger-age classes, reaching 10 per cent in the group of those between 18 and 34 years old. It fell among seniors to 3.8 per cent in the age group of 65 and older, the Istat report also showed.

Inclusion Income Earlier this year, the Rome-based parliament approved a new anti-poverty tool called inclusion income that is replacing existing income-support measures.

It will benefit 400,000 households, for a total of 1.7 million people, Il Sole 24 Ore daily reported, citing parliamentary documents. The program will be funded with resources of around two billion euros (S$3.142 billion) this year which should rise to nearly 2.2 billion euros in 2018, Sole also said.

The incidence in Italy of relative poverty, which is calculated on the basis of the average consumption expenditure and affects a larger group of people, also rose last year.

Poor individuals in relative terms were almost 8.5 million or 14 per cent of the population, with a higher incidence in the households with a bigger number of children and in the groups below the age of 34 years old, Istat said.