The FOESSA Report 2022, on the social situation in Spain
Julio César Rioja cmf
Theologian, journalist Cáritas Elda
The FOESSA Foundation, linked to Cáritas, is considered at a national level one of the best for analyzing the social reality. It is recognized in all the instances inside and outside the Church. Therefore, the FOESSA Foundation has considered it pertinent and opportune to update at this time the picture of exclusion in our society after the tsunami that this pandemic is causing. A few days after the beginning of the March confinement, some questions were raised: how is this crisis affecting the levels of exclusion and integration in our country? Has the pandemic punished equally all layers of society, or are, once again, the households in less advantageous positions the most affected? To answer this question, fieldwork was carried out between March and May 2021. The resulting document has an eminently descriptive character on the situation of exclusion and the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has explicitly had on living conditions and social structure.
Since 2007, the FOESSA Foundation has chosen to systematically observe and investigate the evolution of this social exclusion. Accordingly, in the various waves (2007, 2009, 2013, and 2018) the FOESSA Report has reflected on the living conditions of society as a whole and especially among the most vulnerable people and groups. For this purpose, they have used the Synthetic Index of Social Exclusion (ISES), an index based on 37 indicators that evaluate the capabilities and opportunities of people to participate in society in eight basic dimensions: employment, consumption, political participation, health, education, housing, social conflict, and social isolation.
In this regard and in this edition of the Report, two new features stand out: the implementation of the Minimum Vital Income as an instrument of social protection and the digital divide as a new element that generates exclusion. Thus, this edition updates the picture of exclusion and offers it from a dual perspective: longitudinal and comparative. Longitudinal because it shows the evolution of exclusion figures concerning 2018, and comparative because, in all cases, it offers the possibility of collating the data. In Spain, this health crisis has left behind a deep imprint. Beyond the expected increase in exclusion and poverty. This trend warns us that, although there is a rapid increase in exclusion during crises, the subsequent arrival of periods of recovery and economic growth does not lead to a decrease in these levels of exclusion at the same rate.
In short, in these times of uncertainty and immediacy, FOESSA Foundation provides data that help society to measure the impact of the crisis by identifying the people and social groups most affected and, on the other hand, encourages deep reflection that invites us to rethink the social and relational model, the economic and redistribution model, as well as the values on which to base our coexistence, with the ultimate goal of avoiding the chronification of situations of poverty and social exclusion with a view to the social transformation towards a fairer society.
Among its conclusions:
(a) Severe exclusion and precarious integration are growing, and full integration is decreasing. 37% of the population is in a situation of full integration, 41.2% in a case of precarious integration, 9% in a situation of moderate exclusion, and 12.3% in a situation of severe exclusion (21.3% can be said to live in exclusion, one out of every five people).
- b) The percentage of people with problems in four or more dimensions of daily life is increasing, with a particularly marked deterioration in the dimension of employment and social conflict.
- c) Job instability, poverty, high housing costs, and problems with access to medicines are the most frequent problems, affecting almost 15% of the population.
- d) The groups most affected by social exclusion: are poor households or those with no income, women, and large families.
- e) Exclusion is increasing among the population living in rural areas.
- f) COVID is shaking the labor market, and job instability is growing.
- g) Difficulties in access to housing are intensifying.
- h) Family support networks are strained and eroded.
- i) The digital divide is multiplying the impact of exclusion.
- j) The Minimum Vital Income (IMV) and the Inclusion Income contribute to alleviating the impact of the crisis on the poorest households.
- k) Against the hoaxes that some people spread and consider the excluded as lazy or guilty of their situation, two out of three are actively moving in search of resources and employment.
- l) It is not a question of filling this with numbers and percentages; the study is to guide our action more accurately. Knowing the causes of exclusion and who is most affected only makes sense if it helps us improve our task of accompanying so that all people have sufficient conditions for a dignified life. The report is for reflection, prayer, and sharing. I invite you to read it.
Julio César Rioja