Covid effect, traders and self-employed: this is who the new poor are

ROME. «The restaurants closed at 22? Nothing changes. We have already sunk ». Giovanni Barbier has a two hundred square meter venue in the Ghetto of Rome right in front of the fountain of the Turtles. Listening to his story means plunging into the crisis of a sector that, six months after the start of the pandemic, still does not see a way out. “Keeping open costs me 1500 euros per day including rent, utilities, personnel costs. I no longer have how to get back these expenses. During the first three months I continued to pay, I lost 200 thousand euros. Now I have no money left for bills and rent and after 25 years of work I am back to being a waiter. Those who were once my waiters are on layoffs for another month, then I don’t know. I’m thinking of selling everything and leaving Rome ».

Covid effect, traders and self-employed: this is who the new poor are

The “new poor” in Italy are on the increase, they are mostly women and families with children and there are many employees in catering and tourism as Caritas explains in the 2020 Report on poverty and social exclusion, but they run the risk of increasing listening to the story of those who work in the sectors most affected by the crisis. In the three months of the total closure, between March and May 2020, about 450 thousand people were assisted by the approximately 62 thousand Caritas volunteers active throughout Italy. Among those helped there are over 2 thousand small traders and self-employed workers. «We tried to overcome the difficulties of the first three months of closure by trying to start over by making a virtue of necessity explains Sergio Paolantoni, president of the Palombini group. «We eliminated the buffets and the diner, we trained the young people who worked as bankers as waiters, we took on mortgages and the difficulties of many employees. But now the new restrictions are scary, they are the death sentence for an entire category that is already suffering “.

Waiters, owners of premises, tourism workers, VAT numbers: these are the new poor created by this spring’s emergency. Analyzing the period May-September of 2019 and comparing it with the same period of 2020 – writes Caritas – it emerges that in Italy, from one year to the next, the incidence of the “new poor” has gone from 31% to 45%. Almost one in two people who turn to Caritas does so for the first time. In particular, the weight of families with minors, women, young people, Italian families, who are in the majority (52% compared to 47.9% last year) and people of working age increases. They are above all women, “more fragile and disadvantaged in terms of employment and often spokespersons of the needs of the entire family unit”, reads the report. 54.4% of the people who presented themselves to Caritas listening centers between May 15 and September 15 of 2020 are women, compared to 50.5% in the same period last year. There are more and more people with fixed abode (which go from 80.6% to 85.9%) and families with children (which go from 73.5% to 75.4%). On the other hand, the weight of serious marginalization, the share of homeless people, foreigners and lonely people decreased. According to Caritas, what can be glimpsed is “a new phase of ‘normalization’ of poverty, as a result of the 2008 economic shock”. With one difference: in pre-pandemic Italy (2019) the number of absolute poor was already very high, more than double compared to 2007.

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