Coast sees spectacular rise in child poverty

According to a report by the children’s agency Kind en Gezin, the percentage of children born into poor families is rising more quickly in municipalities along the Flemish coast than elsewhere in Flanders. The results of the study appear in an article in Tuesday's edition of the daily ‘De Morgen’. The situation is worst in Ostend, where more than a quarter of all children are born into families that have trouble making ends meet.

The report compares figures from 2012 with those from 2010. In Ostend there was a rise in the percentage of children being born into poverty from 15.7% in 2010 to 26.7% last year.

Elsewhere, the number of babies born into poor families doubled in Middelkerke to 17% and rose to 15.4% in Knokke-Heist. Around a quarter of the baby born in Blankenberge come from poor families.

The rise in the percentage of children being born into poverty isn’t confined to municipalities along the coast. In Antwerp almost a quarter of children are born into poverty, while the same is true of 15.6% of babies born in Ghent.

Other areas that have seen big increases in the number of children born into poor families are the area around Kortrijk (West Flanders), Mortsel (Antwerp province) and Geraardsbergen (East Flanders). For Flanders as a whole the percentage of children being born into poverty rose from 8.6% to 10.5% in 2012.

One parent families and other languages

The Flemish Coast and Ostend in particular doesn’t fare well in the report. Although the economic crisis has undoubtedly has played a role in pushing up the infant poverty figures, the relatively high number of children being born into one parent families and language problems are also important factors.

The Ostend Alderman responsible for equal opportunities Tom Germonpré told the paper that "We have noticed that one in four children born in Ostend are born into a one parent family and also that more children are being born. At the same time around one in four children born here are born into families where another language than Dutch is spoken in the home. These are two factors that increase the risk of a child being in poverty.

The Flemish socialist Deputy Prime Minister Johan Vande Lanotte (who is from Ostend) agrees and says that the rise in child poverty in his home town is due to “the high percentage of one-parent families and foreigners.”

Meanwhile Kimberley Van Hijfte of the Middelkerke Social Services Department believes that a possible explanation for the big rise in child poverty in coastal municipalities is that “Many people believe that everything will be better if they make a fresh start at the coast and of course this is not always the case.”