Christmas meals are handed out in Luxembourg City.
Luxembourg is among the richest countries in the world. But here, too, more and more people are having financial worries.
"One of our big topics is the fight against poverty," said Prime Minister Luc Frieden during the coalition talks at Senningen Castle in late October, even surprising his critics by prioritising this key issue.
In his interview with RTL on New Year's Day, he expressed a more nuanced approach to poverty reduction, acknowledging the complexity of the issue and the need to understand it thoroughly. He highlighted the impact of income disparities on poverty statistics, noting that in a society with higher earnings, the proportional number of individuals at risk of poverty might appear elevated.
However, on the ground, local associations argue that poverty in Luxembourg is not merely a statistical phenomenon. They contend that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, with a significant increase in demand for support services. For instance, local aid organisation Stëmm vun der Strooss provided 100,000 meals four years ago, a number that rose to 150,000 in 2023.
Shockingly, one in five residents now lives at or below the poverty line, with a "working poor" rate exceeding 13 percent, among the highest in the Eurozone. Child poverty is also a pressing concern, affecting one in four children in Luxembourg, with UNICEF calling it a ticking "time bomb".
In October, the refugee situation exacerbated the challenges faced by the government. Strict adherence to the Dublin criteria led to overcrowded reception structures, forcing refugees to live in tents across the city, including under the New Bridge. This visible homelessness has underscored the growing social crisis in Luxembourg.
Léon Kraus, from the "Noel de la Rue" initiative, notes a disturbing trend where an increasing number of Luxembourgers are left without shelter.
As politicians engage in debates, frontline organisations are sounding the alarm. Alexandra Oxacelay of Stëmm vun der Strooss: "We can't hide it anymore, and now people are getting upset. If it continues like this, it will affect our social cohesion." Carole Reckinger, political spokeswoman for Caritas, echoes the sentiment, stating that their role is to catch people who fall through the net but expresses concern about being increasingly overwhelmed and left alone by politics.
The plea from these associations is clear: action is needed to address the rising tide of poverty in Luxembourg, as the social fabric of the country hangs in the balance.
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