Spain has highest share of child poverty in the EU

by Lorraine Williamson
child poverty

Spain is the country in the European Union with the highest child poverty rate. This is according to a report by UNICEF.  

The report states that one in four children in EU countries is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. There are 20 million children across the EU. That there are 1.6 million than in 2019 is evident from the EU’s main poverty indicator. Furthermore, over 2 million of these children live in Spain. 

This corresponds to 28% of children and young people in Spain. This makes Spain the EU country with the highest child poverty rate. The research also shows that more than 11 million children and young people in the EU suffer from mental illness. Teens are most likely to suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, which they say affect 20% of 15- to 19-year-olds. 

Level of well-being and satisfaction 

During and after COVID, the number of mental health problems among young Europeans has increased. Young people are also less satisfied with life. In 2018, 74% were satisfied, in 2022 this had fallen to 69% in 22 EU countries. In Spain, 76% of boys and girls say they are satisfied with their lives. This puts Spain in ninth place in the EU for the highest level of well-being and satisfaction. 

Pesticides and air pollution 

On the other hand, the report indicates that nearly one in twenty children are exposed to “high levels of pesticide contamination.” These can be “particularly harmful”. In addition, the report shows that in 2019 (the most recent year for which data are available) there were 472 deaths of children and young people in the EU due to air pollution, the vast majority of which were under one year old. Spain is the seventh country in the EU with the lowest levels of air pollution. 

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Hate messages 

It also denounces that advances in digital technology expose minors to “abuses such as hate speech, cyberbullying, and sexual exploitation.” The report highlights that one in eight children over the age of 12 regularly receive “unwanted sexual requests” online. 

Recommendations to improve children’s rights  

UNICEF Spain has made several recommendations to improve the lives of young people. First of all, UNICEF advises Spain to introduce a refundable tax deduction per child under the age of 18 of €120 per month. In addition, to strengthen work-life balance measures. But also to ensure the availability of mental health professionals specialising in children and adolescents. Furthermore, UNICEF advises to involve children and adolescents in environmental issues, to protect children in the digital environment.  

For example, UNICEF calls on Spain to “protect and accelerate recent progress on children’s rights and increase investment in basic services”, as well as “strengthen” and “update” and “enforce” legislation to “promote the safe use of digital technologies by children, address the digital divide and promote digital skills”. 

Also read: Decline in prosperity in Spain

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