Monday, 14 November 2022

Every Fifth Croatian Resident on Edge of Poverty as Inflation Continues

November the 14th, 2022 - Every fifth Croatian resident is living on the very edge of poverty as inflation continues to spiral and prices stay firmly on their upward trajectory. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, The World Day of the Poor was marked just yesterday, having initially been established by Pope Francis six years ago with the message - "We do not love with words, but with deeds". 

Here in this country, every fifth Croatian resident is at risk of falling below the poverty line, and the situation is further aggravated by growing inflation, which is why more and more people need help. On this occasion, Caritas organised a lunch and assistance for those most in need. The economic crisis and rising inflation has pushed many to the brink of poverty, and it's more than likely going to get worse before it gets better, writes HRT.

"We are also noticing an increase in the number of younger families in which one member of the household works, but they do not have enough funds to cover all their financial needs and obligations throughout the month," emphasised Jelena Loncar, the director of Caritas of the Zagreb Archdiocese.

Caritas employees and volunteers are ready to help those who need it with full hands and open hearts. Those who take care of the poor every day prepared a hot meal in Rijeka as well. The "Ruže sv. Franje" homeless shelter shockingly has almost has no free beds, and knocks on the door of the social self-service centre are becoming more and more frequent.

"We have very good support from our fellow citizens, they respond to all our actions. We manage to fill our shelves and that's actually all the joy of sharing and giving," emphasised Nela Pujic, a volunteer of the social supermarket and at the aforementioned homeless shelter.

As stated, every fifth Croatian resident is now at real risk of falling below the poverty line, and there is an extremely fine line between that and homelessness.

For more, make sure to keep up with our dedicated news section.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Croatian Poverty Risk Less, But 70% Only Just Making Ends Meet

July the 19th, 2022 - There is a generally lower Croatian poverty risk, but despite that, around 70% of the population is still only just managing to make ends meet.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, last year, every fifth person in the Republic of Croatia was at risk of poverty and social exclusion, or 20.9 percent of them, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). This is a small improvement compared to back in 2019 and 2020.

The decline in terms of Croatian poverty risk is weak, especially when you take into account that the economic growth in 2021, as Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic often points out, stood at a record 10.4 percent. The fact that the number of those at risk of poverty didn't really increase significantly back in 2020, a year when the country's GDP fell by around eight percent, can still be attributed to the government's rapidly introduced social measures.

Data from the CBS also shows that the Croatian poverty risk rate back in 2021 stood at 19.2 percent, which is almost one percentage point (0.9) more than in pandemic-dominated 2020. The poverty risk threshold in 2021 for a single-member household was 36,461 kuna per year, or slightly more than 3000 kuna per month. For a household with two adults and two children under the age of fourteen, it stood at 76,568 kuna per year, or 6,300 kuna per month.

If various social benefits were also excluded from overall income, the picture of those exposed to the Croatian poverty risk would be much worse. In such a case, the same 19.2 percent would even go up to 24.2 percent. Most people are at risk of poverty live in Pannonian Croatia - as much as 28.6 percent of them, followed by Adriatic Croatia (19.9 percent) and then in Northern Croatia (19.8 percent). The least number of people are at risk of poverty live in the City of Zagreb. The greatest risk group in all of Croatia last year was, as expected, elderly people aged 65 and over, among whom the risk of poverty rate is as high as 32.4 percent, with women at that age being at a much higher risk than men. For older men, this rate stood at 25.9 percent, and for women - 37 percent. Persons aged 25 to 54 are the least exposed to the Croatian poverty risk.

As expected, the unemployed live at the greatest risk of poverty, but it's also interesting to note that those who do work/are employed can also be exposed to the same Croatian poverty risk. Statistics show that four percent of employed people are still at risk of dealing with poverty. Living at risk of poverty certainly affects a person's overall quality of life. Thus, as many as 43 percent of such people are just managing to make ends meet, and with difficulties. It's very difficult for almost eight percent of people in that group to make ends meet, with almost 20 percent of them claiming that to be the case.

The Croatian poverty risk also brings with it many other adversities. Almost half of people (46.5 percent) whose income is 60 percent of the average income cannot meet any unexpected financial expenses, 16 percent are late in settling their financial obligations, and almost six percent (5.7) of them cannot afford adequate heating in the coldest of the winter months.

It's worth noting that back at the end of last year, the Croatian Government adopted the National Plan for the fight against poverty and social exclusion for the period from 2021 to 2027. In it, it set out some priorities and measures aimed at reducing poverty and social exclusion in Croatia.

The government's plan is to reduce the poverty risk rate down to 15 percent by the year 2027, and the percentage of those living at risk of poverty and social exclusion to 17.8 percent.

It will be implemented on the basis of the Action Plan, and includes measures such as increasing the adequacy of social benefits and increasing the coverage of supplementary health insurance for the most vulnerable groups in society.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Contracts Awarded for Co-Financing School Meals for Children at Risk of Poverty

ZAGREB, 27 June 2022 - Minister of Labour and Social Policy Marin Piletić awarded 17 contracts on Monday to county and city authorities, worth more than HRK 14.6 million, which will provide a daily school meal for children at risk of poverty in more than 200 primary schools next school year.

"This is the ministry's annual regular activity since 2015, and we have allocated HRK 30 million for the next 2022/2023 school year for this very purpose," said Piletić.

Contracts were signed with 17 beneficiaries today which will provide school meals for 14,500 children at risk of poverty, and more contracts will be signed with other elementary school founders. The minister believes that the allocated HRK 30 million will all be spent during the next school year.

The funds allocated so far through the European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD) will be allocated next year through the European Social Fund Plus. An allocation of just over €35 million is planned to continue funding this activity until 2027.

Piletić underscored that local government units will also additionally finance these activities, which will include about 30,000 children at risk of poverty in the next school year.

Speaking about children at risk of poverty, Piletić pointed out that only data from 2020 is currently available and the percentage of these children dropped to 16.8%, which is slightly lower than the European average of 21%.

"The poverty rate is highest in Slavonian counties for well-known reasons, but because there are children at risk of poverty in the whole of Croatia, including developed areas, our goal is for school founders in all of Croatia to be potential beneficiaries in the next programme period," Piletić said.

The contracts today were signed by seven counties: Krapina-Zagorje, Sisak-Moslavina, Varaždin, Bjelovar-Bilogora, Međimurje, Koprivnica-Križevci, Brod-Posavina; and 10 cities: Slavonski Brod, Vukovar, Bjelovar, Križevci, Zadar, Čakovec, Vinkovci, Šibenik, Makarska, and Virovitica.

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Sunday, 8 May 2022

Third of Croatian Households Only Just Making Ends Meet

May the 8th, 2022 - The number of those at risk of severe poverty across the country is increasing as around a third of Croatian households are only just managing to make ends meet.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, as part of the report on the state of human rights for 2021, the House of Human Rights in Zagreb held a discussion on socio-economic rights where it was pointed out that in Croatia, more than a fifth of the population is at risk of poverty, and a third of Croatian households are barely making ends meet.

The discussion was based on the part of the report entitled "The right to an adequate standard of living" which outlined, in 19 points, the state of the right to housing, access to social services, poverty, social exclusion and social welfare challenges throughout 2021. In addition, problems related to socio-economic rights vulnerable groups were further highlighted in the chapters on the rights of children, national minorities, especially when it comes to Roma and Serbs.

The report states that more than a fifth of Croatia's population is still at risk of poverty and social exclusion. It is even more devastating that every other person over the age of 65 who lives alone is at risk of poverty, and more than half of their pensions are lower than the Croatian poverty line. Material deprivation is also worrying - as many as a third of Croatian households are currently finding it very difficult or difficult to make ends meet. No significant progress has been made on housing policy in 2021 either, the report said.

Problems in the areas of legal security of housing, affordability, occupancy, accessibility and access to housing have been further exacerbated by the aftermath of the earthquakes in Zagreb and Sisak-Moslavina County back in 2020, as well as the global coronavirus pandemic. It has been especially emphasised that the at-risk-of-poverty rate is higher for tenants than it is for apartment owners, and almost a quarter of subtenants are at risk of poverty. The trend of burdening the population with housing costs also continued last year.

People in Croatia still have problems with the availability and affordability of adequate heating, as well as the overcrowding of apartments because as many as 36 percent of residents live in apartments which are too small. This data is of additional concern due to the slow recovery of the earthquake-affected areas, but also rising inflation and rising energy prices.

How can we turn the situation with poverty around for the better?

"In these circumstances, last year the National Plan for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion for the period 2021-2027 was adopted, a key policy that should respond to these challenges. However, this plan is quite unambitious and doesn't bring any measures that could turn the situation with poverty around for the better,'' said Tina Djakovic, the coordinator of the Human Rights House in Zagreb.

The measures proposed by the state aren't aimed at a systematic solution to the problem, and there are no new approaches to respond to growing challenges such as energy poverty or poverty of the elderly or social exclusion of people living in isolated areas, refugees and a number of other vulnerable groups and individuals.

Exercising socio-economic rights in the Republic of Croatia is also difficult due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and 2020's earthquakes, said Deputy Ombudsman Tatjana Vlasic, who pointed out during the discussion that most complaints from people to the Ombudsman's Office came from earthquake-affected areas of the country.

She also pointed out that as many as 92 percent of Roma households live below the at-risk-of-poverty level in Croatia, and almost half of them live in isolated settlements that do not have access to electricity and water. She also warned of the situation in Sisak-Moslavina County, where the unavailability of public transport causes significant issues when it comes to accessing health and social services, which especially affects the elderly.

Despite the sheer amount of struggling Croatian households, poverty and homelessness remain taboo topics...

Djordana Barbaric from the MoSt association pointed out that poverty and homelessness as an extreme form of poverty, are still taboo topics that are rarely discussed, and that vulnerable groups and individuals are often left entirely invisible. She stressed the importance of interdepartmental cooperation and a multidisciplinary approach to the problem, because people in poverty or homelessness often find themselves in complex circumstances and need help in the field of social protection, healthcare and in exercising theor right to work and enjoy protection against discrimination.

Olja Druzic Ljubotina from the Study Centre for Social Work at the Faculty of Law at the University of Zagreb, warned about the problem of child poverty and pointed out that children are especially vulnerable because they are dependent on others and are often an invisible group in society. Accessibility to pre-school education remains a problem in Croatia, which is crucial for the prevention of poverty and social exclusion of children. She also pointed out that institutions often don't recognise child poverty as their problem, that is, that different departments should work together to find a solution and be able to act properly and systematically.

Poverty and social exclusion are significantly added to by the lack of availability and the quality of social services, said Valentina Zeljak Bozovic from the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma Zagreb.

According to their research on the availability of social services, the differences between rural and urban units of local self-government units in the provision of almost all social services have been confirmed, and differences also exist at the regional level. These differences are the most noticeable in the availability of social services for young people, people with disabilities, people with mental health problems, and members of national minorities and refugees.

With Croatian households struggling to make ends meet, inflation continuing and the war in Ukraine continuing to result in various economic issues with supply chains, it's not hard to see how all of the failings of the many systems in this country are failing the most vulnerable in society on a consistent basis.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Publication "Poverty - A Stain on the Conscience of the Mankind" Presented

ZAGREB, 18 Oct 2021 - On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the MoSt association from Split on Monday presented the publication "Poverty - A Stain on the Conscience of the Mankind - Review of the Framework and Possibilities for Eradicating Poverty in Croatia."

The author of the book is Đordana Barbarić and the author of the photographs is Leo Lendić.

At the presentation, it was underscored that the publication is a record of our times, that it speaks loudly about a significant global social problem and aims to spotlight the issue of poverty and social exclusion and indicate all resources and opportunities that existed in Croatia providing help and support.

The main message of the book is that "infrastructure" exists for eradicating poverty in Croatia, but connectedness is lacking.

"Connecting, networking, cooperation, solidarity and effective policies for combating poverty are becoming imperative," said the author of the publication, Đordana Barbarić from the association MoSt.

The problem is, she said, that processes are very slow in Croatia -- reforms can last decades.

"No one in Croatia should stay hungry, without a roof over their head or without support. No child, individual or family should live without electricity, water, a hot meal...," said Barbarić.

She pointed out that Croatia has the Social Welfare Act, strategies, plans, protocols, funds. We have 555 local government units -- 428 municipalities and 127 cities, as well as 21 units of the regional government, which have social welfare departments, programs, measures, finances, and legal obligations. There are 80 social welfare centers in Croatia, 38 branches, and a large number of employed experts.

Barbarić also stressed, the Croatian Caritas charity has a large and significant network of social services in 17 archdioceses and dioceses and 1,500 parish communities that carry out charitable activities, and the Croatian Red Cross has 131 county, city, and municipal branches.

The Croatian Homeless Network has 15 active organizations, the Croatian Network of Social Supermarkets has 18 members and as many outside the Network, and the Food Network has over 10 members. There are also dozens of citizens' initiatives and civil society organizations in the field of the eradication of poverty.

At the presentation, it was said that 23.3% of persons in Croatia were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Also, 43% of citizens live in families that can barely make ends meet.

It was also said that each person throws away 75 kg of food per year and that over 40,000 children depend on different forms of social assistance.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.


Saturday, 16 October 2021

Trade Union Says 23.2% of Croatians at Risk of Poverty

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - The poverty risk rate in Croatia in 2020 was 18.3%, 23.2% of Croatians were at risk of poverty and the rate of severe material deprivation was 6.9%, the NHS trade union federation warned on Saturday, on the occasion of the International Day to Eradicate Poverty, 17 October.

The minimum net pay in 2021 is HRK 3,400, the average net monthly pay in July was HRK 7,046 and the median wage was HRK 6,000. An average Croatian household is able to cover only three quarters of its regular expenses from its regular income, and most households are forced to reallocate their funds and borrow.

Data show that in June 2021 households' debt reached HRK 138.9 billion, 4.2 billion more than in the same month of 2020.

Data from the EU's statistical office Eurostat show that in 2019 as many as 19.1% of those whose income was less than 60% of the national median were unable to afford adequate heating.

Data from the European Trade Union Institute show that since 2009 Croatia has seen the highest, 16.5% increase of all EU members in the number of households unable to afford adequate heating. 5.1% of employed persons in Croatia are poor, with the unemployed, elderly people, families with several children, single-parent households as well as single-member households, households with the minimum wage and most pensioners being the most at risk of poverty.

The average pension in 2020 was HRK 2,537.15 and the average pension of a former office-holder was HRK 10,016.56.

Croatia has become a country whose citizens are emigrating in search of a better life, a country of unstable and insecure jobs. Data show that due to job insecurity and low wages, as many as 77% of young people still live with their parents.

Stable and secure jobs, jobs with high added value, much higher minimum and all other wages and higher pensions are the only way out of poverty and social exclusion. Without that, we can only state with sadness and resignation, again on this year's International Day to Eradicate Poverty, that Croatia is an increasingly socially stratified, poor country of even poorer citizens, the NHS said.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Friday, 15 October 2021

HSU: 600,000 Croatian Pensioners with Allowances Below Poverty Line

ZAGREB, 15 October 2021  - The Croatian Pensioners Party (HSU) warned on Friday that over 600,000 pensioners in Croatia received pensions below the poverty line, and that the ratio of the average pension to the average wage was never lower, amounting to 35.9 percent.

The number of poor people in Croatia is growing by the day, and according to Eurostat, the poverty line is currently HRK 2,927, while the risk of poverty rate is higher than ever before, HSU leader Veselko Gabričević told a press conference, held to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, observed on 17 October.

"We are seeing a surge in energy prices, notably in prices of petroleum products, which is having a direct impact on prices of all staples. The last pension adjustment of HRK 68 is almost next to nothing. Regardless of the legal requirement for pensions to be adjusted twice a year, pensioners' purchasing power is decreasing and their lives are becoming harder," Gabričević said. 

The HSU is dissatisfied with the present pension indexation formula, saying that it leads pensioners into even greater poverty. It says that this issue has been raised with the National Council for Pensioners to stop a further decline of pensions in relation to wages. The party is calling for a comprehensive pension reform to increase the lowest pensions.

According to the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, 1,113,522 pensions were paid out this September, and 722,644 pensioners have pensions ranging between HRK 500 and 3,000.

Gabričević noted that 9,195 pensions paid out in September exceeded HRK 8,000, including those of members of Parliament. 

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Friday, 8 October 2021

Croatia Sets Aside €2.7 bn to Combat Poverty

ZAGREB, 8 Oct 2021 - The Labour, Family and Social Policy Ministry's state secretary, Marija Pletikosa, on Friday told a conference on homelessness in Split that Croatia had allocated almost HRK 20 billion in the period from 2021 to 2027 to combat poverty and social exclusion.

"The National Plan to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion in Croatia for the period from 2021 to 2027 foresees and allocation of almost HRK 20 billion," Pletikosa said at the 15th national conference on homelessness.

According to Pletikosa, that money will be disbursed to implement several measures and services that will be provided for the purpose of combatting poverty in Croatia. She added that the measures also include providing assistance to  the homeless.

"Given that homelessness has been recognised on the global level as a growing problem, in the coming period the Ministry will continue to work in synergy in cooperation with other key stakeholders to improve policies directed towards protecting the homeless," she said.

She added that in the coming period homeless people will be accommodated during "extreme winter conditions" in premises that will be ensured by large cities and county centre cities.

Drago Lelas from the Split-based MoST NGO said that there were currently 45 homeless people in Split and 35 were accommodated in homeless shelter centres, however, ten addicts or those suffering from grave mental issues refused help.

"There are about 2,000 people in Croatia who are considered to be homeless as defined by the law and of that number 400 are accommodated in shelters, which is the capacity of the 14 shelters that exist in Croatia. The rest are out in the street," said Lelas.

He added that Croatia has still not taken over a typology relating to the homeless, which describes living in inappropriate housing conditions without electricity and water, in sheds, caravans and the like. Based on that typology, Lelas underscored, Croatia would have about ten thousand homeless people.

He also underscored that since the outbreak of the pandemic, all 14 homeless shelters in Croatia had registered only one case of being positive with coronavirus, and that being in Zagreb.

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Wednesday, 6 October 2021

2,000 People in Croatia Live in Abject Poverty

ZAGREB, 6 Oct, 2021 - The World Homeless Day (observed on 10 October) and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Social Exclusion (observed on 17 October) will be marked in Zagreb on Monday, 11 October, to draw attention to the problems faced by 2,000 people in Croatia who live in abject poverty.

The data on the number of homeless persons in Croatia vary. The Croatian Homeless Network estimates that about 2,000 people live in abject poverty, or without a roof over their heads. However, if persons with insecure and inappropriate housing are taken into account, their number rises to 10,000, the Pet Plus association said on Wednesday.

The associations Pet Plus, Dom Nade and Stijena Resoc will gather together at Zagreb's central train station at 2 pm on Monday to raise public awareness of the needs of homeless people and the reasons why people sometimes end up on the street. 

The associations say that poverty is the reason for homelessness in 69 percent of cases, and that as many as 88 percent of registered homeless people are of a working age. That is why they are calling for their employment as a way of helping them out of homelessness.

The associations highlighted the problem of getting identification documents, saying that homeless people often cannot get them and that that is why the number of registered homeless people in Croatia is much lower than their actual number.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

132,000 Employed Croatian Residents Still Considered Poor

June the 30th, 2021 - As many as 132,000 Croatian residents who work, pay their contributions and taxes, are considered to be poor. These alarming figures raise many questions which have plagued the Croatian labour system for a long time.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, every tenth Croatian resident with employment, so a total of 132,000 of them, received a salary of less than 3,800 kuna for their work during the month of April this year.

The average salary of all 1.3 million employees in legal entities in April amounted to 7,082 kuna, but more than 60 percent of people, or 792 thousand of them, earn far less than that. Every other employee, 660,000 of them, receives less than 5,956 kuna, which is the median salary, writes Slobodna Dalmacija.

Back in April 2021, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published data on the structure of employees by salary for March last year. It publishes this type of data once a year, and according to the latest data, 5.9 percent of full-time employees, or 64,810 of them, earned less than 3,400 kuna, which is this year's minimum wage, and their share is probably similar this year.

It is expected that Croatian residents earning such a salary should somehow be able to juggle living, eating, and paying for utilities, and those who have a family have more expenses to consider. According to the 2019 Household Budget Survey, average consumption expenditures amounted to 93,522 kuna per household, or 7,793 kuna per month. Even the current average salary of 7,082 kuna can't cover this level of consumption, in which food is the most expensive item.

Food accounts for 26 percent of total household consumption, or 24,538 kuna, which is 2,044 kuna in monthly costs for food and soft drinks. Costs for electricity, water, waste collection, repairs and the maintenance of apartments stand at around 704 kuna per month on average, and 410 kuna is the average monthly cost for subscriptions for TV, internet and phones.

When the food, utilities and communication costs are settled, the salary of 3,158 kuna has already disappeared. If the salary is 4000 kuna, there is a mere 842 kuna left for everything else, including transport, fuel, clothes, shoes, medicines, apartment maintenance, recreation, travel, morning coffees...

In order for someone to be statistically at risk of poverty, they need to have lower incomes than those set as the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, and in Croatia there were 742,644 such people registered in 2019.

The last published data on the risk of poverty are from 2019, in which the risk threshold for singles was 2,710 kuna per month, and for households with two adults and two children, 5,691 kuna per month. The median salary in 2019 was 5569 kuna, and the current medial salary for April this year was still 5956 kuna.

The average workers' pension received by one million pensioners is currently 2,635 kuna. Because of such incomes, people have problems surviving: 1.44 million Croatian residents, or more than a third, live in households that find it very difficult to make ends meet at the end of each month.

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