Visitors take a break as soap bubbles blow by in Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy (Photographer: Alessandra Benedetti/Bloomberg)

Italy Records Europe's Biggest Rise in People at Risk of Poverty

(Bloomberg) -- Italians at risk of poverty rose by more than 3 million since the 2008 financial crisis, marking the biggest increase among European nations. The trend continued last year despite the country’s return to economic growth.

In 2016 Italians classified under European Union statistic rules as families with a very low income or without steady employment totaled 18 million, according to statistics office Eurostat. Both the rise in the nine-year period and the total number were the biggest among the EU member countries, Bloomberg calculations based on those data show.

Italy Records Europe's Biggest Rise in People at Risk of Poverty

Over the same period, the number of vulnerable people declined by 3.3 million in Poland, more than a million in Romania and about 530,000 in Bulgaria. The people at risk of poverty also fell in several euro-area economies, including Germany, the bloc’s biggest.

Italy Records Europe's Biggest Rise in People at Risk of Poverty

Last year, 30 percent of people residing in Italy were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, up from 28.7 percent in 2015, the nation’s statistics office Istat said in a report on Wednesday. That compares with 25.5 percent in 2008, before the euro region’s third-biggest economy entered a double-dip recession that ended in mid-2014.

Italians living below the level of absolute poverty, 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, Istat said in an earlier report. The nation’s absolute poor almost tripled over the last decade.

Earlier this year, the government earmarked funds for a new income-support tool aimed at the country’s poorest households, which may receive as much as 490 euros ($577) a month each. The government’s draft budgetary plan for 2018 forecasts the program will have a negligible impact on public finances.

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