Rural poverty in the European Union

13-03-2017

In 2015, 119 million European citizens, representing almost a quarter of the EU population, were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Statistics show that the average poverty rate is slightly higher in rural areas, with very contrasting situations across the Union as some countries display a huge poverty gap between rural and urban areas. Rural poverty, which appears to be less documented than urban poverty, is linked to the specific disadvantages of rural areas. These include an unfavourable demographic situation, a weaker labour market, limited access to education and also remoteness and rural isolation. The latter is associated with a lack of basic services such as healthcare and social services, and with increased costs for inhabitants on account of travel distances. These factors are considered to be the main drivers of rural poverty. Through their interaction, they can generate a spiral of decline in which poverty can become entrenched. While the fight against poverty and social exclusion lies primarily within the remit of the Member States and their regions, this issue is at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Several EU funds and policies can contribute to alleviating poverty, in particular the current EU rural development policy which, for the first time, includes a priority relating to the promotion of social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas. Within this policy, Member States and regions can use EU funding to implement measures that, although not directly targeting poverty reduction, may help tackle those drivers of poverty in many ways, such as fostering job creation, improving services, developing infrastructure for information and communications technologies (ICT), and enhancing access to education. In this regard, local strategies such as the Leader method are particularly suited to supporting disadvantaged groups.

In 2015, 119 million European citizens, representing almost a quarter of the EU population, were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Statistics show that the average poverty rate is slightly higher in rural areas, with very contrasting situations across the Union as some countries display a huge poverty gap between rural and urban areas. Rural poverty, which appears to be less documented than urban poverty, is linked to the specific disadvantages of rural areas. These include an unfavourable demographic situation, a weaker labour market, limited access to education and also remoteness and rural isolation. The latter is associated with a lack of basic services such as healthcare and social services, and with increased costs for inhabitants on account of travel distances. These factors are considered to be the main drivers of rural poverty. Through their interaction, they can generate a spiral of decline in which poverty can become entrenched. While the fight against poverty and social exclusion lies primarily within the remit of the Member States and their regions, this issue is at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Several EU funds and policies can contribute to alleviating poverty, in particular the current EU rural development policy which, for the first time, includes a priority relating to the promotion of social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas. Within this policy, Member States and regions can use EU funding to implement measures that, although not directly targeting poverty reduction, may help tackle those drivers of poverty in many ways, such as fostering job creation, improving services, developing infrastructure for information and communications technologies (ICT), and enhancing access to education. In this regard, local strategies such as the Leader method are particularly suited to supporting disadvantaged groups.