More than a fifth of Croatians live at risk of poverty and a third of households have difficulty making ends meet, the Human Rights House Zagreb NGO said at a recent panel discussion.
The discussion focused on the section of the organisation’s annual report on the state of human rights in Croatia entitled “The right to an adequate standard of living”, dealing with the right to housing, access to social services, poverty and social exclusion, and challenges to social care.
The socio-economic rights of vulnerable groups, such as children and ethnic minorities, in particular Roma and Serbs, were also highlighted.
The report says that more than a fifth of the Croatian population remain at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Every other single person aged above 65 is at risk of poverty, and more than half of pensions are below the national poverty line. Another cause for concern is material deprivation because as many as a third of Croatian households have difficulty making ends meet.
No significant progress was made in 2021 with regard to housing policy. Problems concerning housing security and affordability and access to housing were further exacerbated by the consequences of the earthquakes that struck Zagreb and the Banovina region in 2020 and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The poverty risk rate was higher for people living in rented accommodation than for housing owners as nearly a quarter of tenants were at risk of poverty.
People continue to face problems with access to affordable heating, and as many 36% live in too small apartments. This gives additional cause for concern considering the slow pace of post-earthquake reconstruction, growing inflation and increased energy prices.
In such circumstances, the national plan to combat poverty and social exclusion was adopted last year for the 2021-2027 period. “This plan, however, lacks ambition and does not provide for measures that might change the situation for the better,” said Tina Djakovis, coordinator of Human Rights House Zagreb.
The measures proposed by the government are not aimed at tackling the problems systematically and do not provide for ways of responding to growing challenges such as energy poverty, elderly poverty or the social exclusion of persons living in isolated areas, refugees, young people not in education, employment or training, and other vulnerable groups and individuals.
Deputy human rights ombudsman Tatjana Vlasis said that as many as 92% of Roma households in Croatia live below the poverty risk level and nearly half of them live in isolated communities without access to electricity and water infrastructure.
Djordana Barbaric from the MoSt NGO said that poverty and homelessness remained taboo subjects and were seldom discussed, and that vulnerable groups and individuals were often invisible. She emphasised the importance of interdepartmental and interdisciplinary cooperation in addressing these problems because poor or homeless people need social protection, health care and protection from discrimination and should also be enabled to exercise their right to work.