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Young people are hardest hit by EU economic crisis: study

Almost a third of people under 18 in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a German think-tank says. Its report also reveals a persistent north-south divide.

Some 26 million people aged under 18 in the European Union, or 27. 9 percent, are living in poverty or lack the means to be fully integrated into society, the study by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation shows.

The Social Justice Index,

released on Tuesday, also indicates that many in the 20-24 age group have few future prospects, as they have been unable to find either training or work. The situation in this age group has improved only in Germany and Sweden, the study says, with the number of those at risk of poverty increasing, sometimes considerably, in 25 EU member states.

Many of the worst-affected countries are in southern Europe, with the number of impoverished young people in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy rising by 1.2 million to reach 7.6 million, the study says. It said they were living in households earning less than 60 percent of average income, were growing up in "quasi unemployed households" or suffered under "severe material deprivation."

Germany was in seventh place on the Index, which compares the EU's 28 states according to 35 criteria. Sweden topped the ladder as the country offering the best chances for young people to remain out of poverty.

The makers of the study warned of the consequences if the number of young people living in precarious circumstances continued to rise.

"We cannot afford a lost generation in Europe socially or economically. The EU and its member states must make great efforts to lastingly improve the chances of young people," said Bertelsmann Foundation chairman Aart De Geus.

tj/kms (dpa, AFP, KNA)

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