[European Union] Most severe austerity measures in Europe are associated with worse child health outcomes

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19 May 2020
BMC Blog Network

Examining correlations between austerity measures taken by EU states in times of the Great Recession of 2008 and child health, a new research article reviews relevant literature in the last 5 years on countries that applied such measures linking it to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Here are some highlights:


  • Austerity measures describe governments` responses to the 2008 economic crisis which is characterized by reducing social spending and increasing taxation.
  • Greece, Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom are among the countries which applied the highest levels of austerity.
  • Cuts in education, healthcare and other public services affect the most vulnerable groups of children and youth.


  • Countries which introduced harsh austerity policies indicate an increase in material deprivation, child poverty and lower birth levels compared to pre-2008 times.
  • Between 2008 and 2013, higher levels of social protection spenditure correlate to lower levels of child poverty.
  • Austerity is found to be related to limited access to and lower quality of services especially when it comes to children with disabilities.
  • Decreased public health budgets are associated with limited vaccination coverage in Italy.  

Austerity and COVID-19

  • Early research shows the pandemic situation affects vulnerable persons the most.
  • In the long term, the indirect effects of the pandemic will have profound consequences for children, particularly for poor children.
  • Preventive health child services (e.g. immunization) are negatively impacted.
  • Lockdown measures and social distancing result in increased hunger, mental health problems, and the risk of abuse and neglect.
  • Closing schools and other care facilities appear to be contribute factor in decreased visibility of neglect and domestic violence.
  • Continuous austerity policies are expected after the end of the acute phase of the pandemic which will harm the capacity of social and health systems to respond.
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