Économie et Statistique n° 383-384-385 - 2005Approaches to Poverty: the Test of International Comparisons
The poor and poor lifestyles in European countries
Seven countries the United Kingdom and France, Spain and Portugal, Poland, and Russia and Romania provide a good example of the wide range of standards of living in the 'reunified' Europe of the early 21st century. Yet when the poorest populations are studied in each of these seven countries, the differences are less striking than the similarities. Everywhere, the bottom of the socio-economic ladder features large families and lone parents, households with disabled and unemployed individuals, and households whose head has a low-skilled job. A certain geographic permanence in the socio-demographic profile of the poor can therefore be observed. The same does not hold true for their lifestyles in terms of productive activity, budgetary behaviour and mutual assistance. Risks related to health, the rural exodus and immigration, the labour market, fertility and couples separating are regulated by institutional and family solidarity mechanisms that differ from one country to the next, including between 'rich' Western European countries. The increase in the standard of living in the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) will probably reduce extreme destitution, but this will most likely then give way to a poverty that, far from being a mirror image of current poverty in the Western European countries, will bear the mark of a sudden transition to a market economy in addition to intrinsic national particularities.