The impact of the economic crisis on families

by Ana Pérez

Families are being hard hit by the crisis through rising unemployment, falling purchasing power, increasing debt, poverty and social exclusion. Families are indeed victims of the crisis, but they are also among the essential acting stakeholders towards necessary changes.

As you know, the annual work theme for COFACE in 2014 was “Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe”. Even though we remain very active in this field, this year, COFACE has put the spot on the “Families in a vulnerable situation”.

The European conference “Accessible and fair financial services: alternatives to mainstream banking” that we organized last May in Madrid was a milestone in this thematic year. The conference explored a variety of aspects of financial inclusion and explored the question of how alternative banking could contribute to ensure access to fair and quality financial services for all families. More information about the conference here.

On this topic, we have also produced a video that shows why financial inclusion is so important for families, giving a few practical examples of how civil society organizations and better policies can secure financial inclusion for all. Watch the video here.

And finally, we are currently working on a compendium of best practices on fair, sustainable and inclusive financial services. The document will be released in December.

Another initiative related to this thematic year on families in a vulnerable situation, was the roundtable “Two-generation Early Childhood Education and Care programmes”. At the roundtable we disussed the recent ECEC related policy developments and programmes facilitating the entry (or re-entry) of women (especially those long-term unemployed) to the labour market. More information about this roundtable here.

The current economic crisis is already having long term implications on the well-being of families in the European Union. Due to the additional impact of austerity measures, millions of families are challenged in ways that will cause major negative effects to their lives, of their ageing relatives and of their children, and indeed, the future of Europe’s younger generations is at stake.

This crisis is increasingly putting at risk the basic needs of families in terms of financial resources, availability of quality services and provision of adequate time arrangements. Unfortunately, poverty and social exclusion of families will continue to rise. All Member States are concerned, but some are harder hit than others.

It is clearly visible that the effects of the longstanding economic crisis and budgetary cuts are especially felt by families with low income. The most vulnerable families such as single-parent families, large families, families with young children and/or dependent relatives and migrant families are most likely to meet difficulties in the fulfilment of their role as educators and carers.

The support of targeted economic growth together with a fairer redistribution of wealth, accompanying specific measures aiming the most vulnerable, are complementary measures that will see all families and especially the most vulnerable through the crisis.

According to Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Social Justice Index 2015, in the EU, some 26 million children and young people are threatened by poverty or social exclusion. The social justice gap in Europe runs most strongly between north and south and between young and old. To read the principal findings of the Social Justice Index 2015, please click here.

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