NEARLY 14 percent of households in Spain had “real difficulty” in financially making it to the end of the month last year, the National Institute of Statistics (INE)reported yesterday.

Research carried out by the INE on “Quality of Life” also revealed that almost 20 percent of the population were living below the poverty line in 2009 and that one in three homes didn't have the resources to cope with any unforeseen financial requirement. The figure within this bracket was almost 6 percent higher than it had been in 2008, the most significant level of the past four years.

According to the INE, the poverty line is defined by having an income which is 60 percent less than the average. Statistics revealed that 16.8 percent of the population managed to pay household and other monthly bills “with difficulty”, and that more than a quarter - 28.5 percent - had “a certain amount of difficulty” in seeing their way to the end of the month.

The number of people who profess to suffer from cold in their homes, essentially because they can't pay their heating bills has also risen along with those who find themselves unable to meet general household costs.

Merce Darnell, a spokesperson for the Catholic charity “Caritas” said yesterday that the group which had the most number of people living below the poverty line last year, were the over 65s. Nearly 26 percent of them fell into the bracket, whilst 23.2 percent of under 16-year-olds were also classified as living in poverty. Caritas, she said, were increasingly giving aid to unqualified young people and immigrants.

Darnell said that figures for hardship were very difficult to quantify because they were based on income without taking into account expenses.
Statistics, she said, therefore did not embrace those people who had a healthy income - more than a 1'000 euros a month, but were beset with essential payments they were finding increasingly difficult to make.

Separately, 7.2 percent of households around the country had difficulty in keeping up mortgage payments on their homes, or paying rent and gas and electricity bills. The figure represents an increase of 1.8 percent on records for 2008 and is the highest level of difficulty registered since 2005.