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Further statistics gleaned from the European Quality of Life Survey conducted by the Eurofound organisation confirm that poverty is on the rise in the EU but varies greatly from country to country. Between the previous survey in 2007 and the current one, which has figures for 2011, there is a difference of about 18% in the proportion of households in Greece reporting difficulty in making ends meet; in Luxembourg the percentage is almost unchanged. Not surprisingly the poorest 25% of the population report more difficulty then the richest quarter but it is striking that over 70% of the Greek better-off are struggling to pay all their bills. In some Member States there exists a big gap between rural and urban residents. Deeper mining of the data reveals that, over the whole EU, two-parent families where both are unemployed are most at risk of poverty.
Prices edge up but EU authorities still have deflation worry
Latest figures from Eurostat show a slight rise in inflation in April but it is still at historically low levels. At 0.8% annually the rate is well short of the 2% considered healthy by central bankers. Not the least of the problems which will flow from a failure to increase it is the extra difficulty that countries such as Greece and Italy will have in paying back their huge debts. Inflation helps them to do this as the relative value of their fixed debt declines. Italy’s current figure is 0.5% while Greece’s stands at –1.6%, substantial deflation. The statistics also reflect the lack of any economic ‘take-off’ following the financial crisis. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by only 1.4% in the first quarter of this year compared to last. In seven Member States the economy is still shrinking. Without much faster growth it is highly unlikely that the general inflation will rise to a ‘normal’ level’.