Poor people have to get along with the fact of not having enough money, material deprivation and in many cases being unemployed. But as if this was not enough many poor people are excluded from society. The best solution would be eliminating poverty. But this is not a realistic solution – the government and other institutions can just try to decrease the poverty rates as much as possible. If not all of the poor people can be released from poverty they should at least live in dignity and play an active part in society. And this is what the ‘European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion’ is aiming. It is a consolidation of many institutions from the European States to state common concerns and responsibilities and this union is working on common visions and solutions. Another objective is to raise awareness for this topic, build partnerships and achieve political commitment at all levels of governance and concrete actions to decrease poverty and social exclusions. EU leaders promised to get at least 20 million people from Europe out of poverty and exclusion by the year 2020.
But was means being poor or socially excluded in people’s minds? A survey had been conducted in 2009 to get an overview of different opinions. One quarter perceived people as being poor if their resources are so limited that they cannot participate fully in the society they live in. Another quarter said that poor people depend on charity or public subsidies. 18% considered people as poor when they have less than the poverty threshold per month to live on and 17% believed that people are poor when they are not able to afford the basic goods needed to live. If people are too poor to take part fully in the society it means that they cannot afford free time activities which have to be paid. But it does not just affect the pleasure but also more substantial objects. Poor people are excluded from society because they are not able to pay for medical treatments, heating the house, education, cultural activities and in general for consumption besides food.
But it is not just the responsibility of big institutions or governments to prevent people from living socially excluded. Poor people often feel stigmatized and not comfortable among ‘rich’ people. Regarding that even a single person can play a role in improving the situation of poor people by doing little things to make them feel more comfortable. For instance, they can give unemployed people approval when they are volunteering or having another unpaid job. And everybody should treat people who are considered to be poor with dignity and respect. It is a simple rule but too many people seem to forget or to neglect that.
Author: Melanie Rathmann (1129)
 This survey was requested by the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (DG EMPL) and coordinated by the Directorate-General for Communication (DG COMM “Research and Speechwriting” Unit)