Rome, October 29 - Statistics agency Istat reported Tuesday that Italy's poverty levels had almost doubled since the start of the economic crisis and dashed hopes that the country might have already emerged from its current recession.
The national statistics agency said there were 2.4 million Italians living in poverty in 2007, compared to 4.8 million last year. Istat said almost half of the people living in poverty, 2.3 million, were in southern Italy and over one million of them were minors.
It said that 65% of Italian households had cut spending.
The agency added that Italy is set to post negative growth again for the third quarter. Some experts had said Italy might pull out of the recession, which it entered in the second half of 2011, in the July-September period.
But the agency said the country is set to post its ninth consecutive quarter of negative growth, while stressing that forecasts that it will pull out of its longest recession in over two decades by the end of the year should be proved right. Istat said that there will be a drop in gross domestic product "in the third quarter, albeit a limited one, followed by a weak positive variation (in the fourth quarter)".
Therefore, it added, "the period of recession that started in the second half of 2011" should end in the final part of this year.
The national statistics agency forecast Italy's GDP will fall 1.8% this year overall, just above the government's forecast of 1.7%.
After a decade of sluggish growth Italy slipped into the second part of a double-dip recession in the third quarter of 2011.
Austerity policies adopted after the emergency government of ex-premier Mario Monti was sworn in late in 2011 prevented Italy suffering a Greek-style financial meltdown, but they also deepened the recession.
Unemployment has reached a record high of 12.2% and over four in 10 under-25 are jobless.
There have also been reports of an increase in the number of Italians who need to use soup kitchens.
The social consequences of the recession were confirmed by a separate report Tuesday by saving banks association ACRI. The ACRI survey, conducted by pollster Ipsos, said that 30% of households were directly hit by the crisis, an increase from the 26% reporting problems in a similar survey in 2012. It said one in five families reported a member losing employment, while 15% said conditions at work had worsened - an increase from the 9% facing similar problems in 2012. This year, 3% said they had not been paid on a regular basis and 4% were forced to look for new jobs, the survey said.
The categories of workers reporting the greatest difficulty this year have included professionals, executives, and managers, with 24% saying conditions have deteriorated. Pensioners have been hit hard by the crisis, with as many as 68% of those surveyed reporting financial difficulties, up from 65% in 2012.