Press release

A lost generation of children?

18 February 2021

With roughly one in four children in the EU currently at risk of poverty or social exclusion, recent data collected by the Eurocities network shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children.

Even before the pandemic, child poverty levels were much higher in our cities than the national averages. Now, as more parents are losing their jobs, not only are more children slipping into poverty, but coupled with other impacts, such as the digital divide and shortage of affordable housing, it is exacerbating inequalities and social exclusion.

This was the conclusion of a recent Eurocities study, which collected data from 35 cities across 20 EU member states, demonstrating that urban child poverty rates are concentrated in the most deprived areas, where children are at three to ten times greater risk of poverty than in well-off areas. It also demonstrates that, with child poverty rates on the rise, no country, region or city is immune to this threat – a trend that is not reflected in the recent decision on the ESF+ budget. Although the European Parliament and Council of the EU elected to earmark 5% of the ESF+ budget to tackle child poverty, this is only for EU member states with higher than average rates of child poverty, and does not account for the impacts of the pandemic.

“We need to prevent a lost generation of European children,” said Maarten van Ooijen, Chair of Eurocities Social Affairs Forum and Deputy Mayor of Utrecht. “The only hope is that national governments will use the EU recovery funds to prioritise social investments, and not forget about our children.”

Cities already invest considerable resources from their municipal budgets into childcare and welfare family support services. A fact recently attested to by the 18 cities that have committed to invest more than €6bn to reinforce childcare services and increase support for children in need, as part of Eurocities ‘Inclusive Cities 4 All’ initiative.

Yet, given the increasing levels of child poverty and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on municipal budgets, local resources are no longer sufficient and need to be complemented by higher social investment in children from national and EU budgets.

“No government should be allowed to pass on the costs and burden of child poverty to cities without providing them with adequate financial means,” said van Ooijen. “That’s why we need to ensure that the upcoming EU Child Guarantee will be an investment in children, nothing more, nothing less.”

The EU Child Guarantee promises to address this by bringing all levels of government to work together on an integrated strategy to reduce child poverty. To ensure that this helps set the right conditions for children, Eurocities calls for the EU Child Guarantee to:

  • Close the gap in access by supporting local Child Guarantee schemes to adapt services to local needs and make them available as close to children’s homes as possible;
  • Boost local level social investment in children by allocating sufficient resources from EU and national budgets to cities;
  • Involve cities as key partners in developing and delivering the Child Guarantee.

“The new European Social Fund Plus will give cities and local authorities precious resources to address child poverty in the EU, but we must work now on strengthening the synergies with the Recovery Plan and other EU and national funding tools”, said Brando Benifei, Member of European Parliament, Spokesperson on the EU Child Guarantee, who co-hosted the debate with city leaders. He added: “We now need to make sure that the EU Child Guarantee Council Recommendation takes into account fully the multidimensional nature of the problem, which means shaping a policy strategy which ensures effectively to all children free access to quality healthcare, childcare, education, housing and adequate nutrition”.

“There can be no development, no green pact, no digital revolution without the safeguard of our next generation,” said Dragos Pislaru, MEP, Rapporteur on the Resilience and Recovery Facility. “Children and youth have to be a focus in all our policies, in all our member states, ensuring that they have the access and the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling lives, fully integrated into society. We must break the vicious cycle of poverty, social exclusion, low access to skills and education and therefore, low access to quality jobs. We have given ourselves new tools at EU level, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, and soon, the Child Guarantee. We must use these tools to accelerate the process of getting every child in the EU out of poverty.”

Notes for editors:

  1. Eurocities report on child poverty in cities is available here:
  2. This was the subject today of Eurocities event ‘Growing up and out of poverty: Lessons from cities for the EU Child Guarantee’ to discuss approaches by cities to alleviate child poverty and help children succeed.
  3. Eurocities is running a campaign ‘Inclusive Cities 4 All’ engaging mayors and deputy mayors to commit to improve access to social rights, including childcare services and support for children. So far, 65 city commitments have been signed, representing 51 million citizens and totalling a municipal investment of €14.5bn. All city pledges are available here:
  4. Eurocities wants to make cities places where everyone can enjoy a good quality of life, is able to move around safely, access quality and inclusive public services and benefit from a healthy environment. We do this by networking almost 200 larger European cities, which together represent some 130 million people across 39 countries, and by gathering evidence of how policy making impacts on people to inspire other cities and EU decision makers.
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  5. The ESF+ is (European Social Fund+) is the EU fund for employment and social inclusion. A recent agreement reached between the European Parliament and Council of the EU foresees that all member states should allocate appropriate funding from ESF+ to address child poverty, and member states with child poverty rates higher than EU average should allocate a minimum of 5% of their ESF+ national envelope.

Media contact:
Alex Godson: +32 495 298 594 //