Local social services have already noticed an upsurge in demand for financial assistance. Requests for guaranteed minimum income, called ‘living wage’ in Belgium, and food aid are both on the up. Poverty experts warn they are driving blind when it comes to the true picture of poverty due to the corona emergency. Statistics are very reliable, but are usually two years out of date.
Figures relating to 2018 point to over 16% of the population at risk from poverty. Around 1.8 million Belgians live under the poverty line and don’t have enough cash to live properly.
“This is the group that is having a hard time now” says Van Lancker: “The economic shock caused by corona is unprecedented. It will hurt the most vulnerable first as happened in the 2008 financial crisis.”
The experts preparing the exit strategy count on a 25% increase in poverty, but Van Lancker says it’s unclear where this figure comes from: “Take it with a pinch of salt.”
The poverty expert calls on the government to provide help for the most vulnerable, people you know will be hit, and to compile accurate statistics. Van Lancker points to a failure to protect private sector tenants and for more to be done for workers in the hospitality industry: “Often these are young people, singles, without financial reserves.”
He also urges the government to take greater account of the social impact of corona measures to ensure people stick with the measures, but there is more: “If we don’t take account of the social impact of corona measures, a whole generation will have experienced a fall in income, a loss in living standard and often loss of a job: it will have a considerable impact on their lives and those of their children.”