The new poor, the other covid-19 pandemic

En a Europe shaken by the pandemic, many have gone from having a job to having to ask for help for the first time in their lives. How do you deal with this situation in countries like Spain or Austria?

The economic crisis resulting from the pandemic is wreaking havoc among the middle classes. Almost more than half of the people who ask for aid are newly poor. It is the first time they have faced this situation of vulnerability. We tell you the story of a large family that has lost everything … Barcelona, ​​a prosperous city for business and tourism, in principle a good place to make money.

But this city has another side: people suddenly exposed to difficulties and, yes, hunger.

The economic collapse of the pandemic formed queues in front of NGOs distributing food. In Spain a “new poverty” previously underhanded.

Antonio Y Cristina They have three children. The pandemic crushed his little tapas bar. Unable to pay the bills, they were evicted from their apartment. To get food, the family has to ask for help. The Asociation From Veí to Veí – __From neighbor to neighbor-, collects food from local stores and delivers it to people in need. For Antonio, that’s his first time: “It’s just that I’ve never seen myself like this in my life. If not, how was I going to have three children. I was fine. It’s just that my life turned around to freak out. So that I could go looking for food and everything else. You are honestly embarrassed at first. We were a normal family, we didn’t shoot rockets either, but we lived. Right now, the only thing we have is € 400 that my wife is given by the assistant for everything, what we collect from food and the vital pay we do not aim for today has not arrived. I don’t even get paid for unemployment, I don’t have any benefits – nothing … – The boy asks you for a polo shirt and you can’t buy him anything.“.

In September, when the family was evicted, the City Council accommodated them in a tourist apartment as a temporary shelter. Here they can stay until the summer. There are many families in Spain who are poor for the first time.

Cristina, Toni’s wife, is from Romania: “I suppose they have never gone to ask for food, from an NGO to Caritas and we do it now. It is very hard to see you there but you have to do it, you have to eat every day. No choice. And thanks to them who are and exist because you have help if you don’t have to go looking in the garbage or steal “.

Time to pick up little Lia from school. Very close to Toni’s shattered dream of life. After accumulating unpayable debts, the pandemic erased his beloved tapas bar. He had to sell it to a Chinese family.

Toni sees it with mixed feelings:“__It is a place that I have made my way to my liking and you want it to not hurt. On top of that I have the school in front of the bar and I see it every two by three. It is something that you have created that has done like your dream and has gone wrong and it hurts. ”

The pandemic will increase the number of people living in poverty in Spain by more than one million. Why is Spain so affected?

Rafael Martínez Buñuel direct this solidarity support association: We do not fall into the underground economy, what we are seeing a lot is the underground economy that existed before and now no longer. As it is an indemonstrable economy, it is indemonstrable poverty or wealth. Before the pandemic, we delivered two and a half tons of food a month, we served 130 to 140 people. Now in these eight months or so we have already delivered more than 100 tons.

In May, the Spanish government created a basic income plan for some two million people. The failure has been total producing a huge social fruitfulness. Only one percent of the applications have been approved, producing all kinds of delays and bureaucratic anomalies.

Now let’s go to Austria. Vienna, a city of wealth and well-being. But this city has another side: people suddenly exposed to difficulties and, yes, hunger. Does it sound like something? Well the new poverty of COVID hits countries across Europe.

At the NGO Popular Aid in Vienna, the store shelves are quickly emptied.

Your director, Johannes Pleschberger:“More than a dozen of those food packages are going to be delivered right now to the Noth-Light homeless shelter. We are in Vienna. The pandemic crisis has destroyed lives in Austria as well. Here, in the sixth richest country. of the European Union, with the greatest normality, successful people suddenly end up in the streets … “.

Regina is one of them. She is German, works in hotels throughout Europe cooking and cleaning, helping and serving. Until the summer he was in Spain, in Mallorca. He received an offer for the Austrian winter season and accepted.

Upon arrival in Austria, his contract was canceled by COVID. Regina tells us what happened so that she and her two dogs ended up in a shelter: “First I rented a room in a cheap pension, I stayed there for four weeks. Then I realized that the money was running out, the dogs were hungry, I was hungry … Here at Popular Help I get something to eat and drink. Without that I would have to beg in the streets … I have never been in a situation like the one I am in now. I cannot move forward, I cannot go back. And my destiny is only one among thousands or millions of people stuck in a stalemate similar. I’m sorry, but my nerves are about to break. My nerves make me tremble a little, because I’m so worried: What will become of me? “

Sharing a hot meal with homeless people is a new experience for Regina.

He applied for unemployment benefit, but the Austrian administration found that he had 127 days of work to go before he was entitled to the benefit. Regina is not taken into account working days in Germany and Spain. She calls the volunteers who work at the shelter her “second family.”

Claudia Volkshilfe, head of Noth-Light lo resume:“Building relationships, that’s what we do to start with. Everything else goes with it. Like in a family.”

The pandemic also crushed families, freelancers, small entrepreneurs and temporary workers … the list of hardships is getting longer and longer.

For Tanja Wehsely from the Viennese Popular Help“The coronavirus crisis is like a magnifying glass that closely shows the fractures of a society. We have 70 percent more people coming to us, asking for urgent help, for food packages. People are queuing and they have never before thought that one day they would depend on food deliveries for their families. “

Regina is going to ask for a job, and they have already gone 48 times, to the president of the Austrian Hotel Association.

Tourism represents (more than) 7% of the country’s GDP, and there is usually a shortage of labor. The pandemic put the manager of the Reitterer hotel in a difficult situation: the confinement forced to close most of the hotels.

Michael Reitterer makes memory: “When in September, at the end of September, Germany put travel restrictions on Austria, the crisis turned into a real catastrophe … and that is why all my fellow hotel managers are quite reluctant to hire people, because nobody knows if there will be a third confinement, everyone talks about it … and that’s the sad thing for Regina. Well, I promised her that I would help her with my personal contacts and that I would find her a job somewhere in Austria. “

The European Union also helps. So far, € 13.5 billion from Cohesion Policy Funds have been mobilized to fight the COVID pandemic. And more European money is on the way to clamp down on COVID. There is real solidarity among Europeans.

Of the 13.5 billion euros used by the Cohesion Policy Funds, the European Social Fund has channeled 1.4 billion euros in direct support to people in need, social services and vulnerable groups.


You can see the full report in the video at the top of the page.




Video editing: François Rudolf