Austerity mars Christmas spending in Europe

The average European spends a few hundred euros on Christmas gifts amid austerity measures and poverty figures in the 28-nation bloc, a survey reveals.

Austerity mars Christmas spending in Europe

World Bulletin/News Desk

Just like every other Christmas, Tatevik Aramaisian buys gifts for her family and close friends in time for this year’s holiday.

But the 23-year-old brand manager at a department store in Brussels must be careful with how much she spends on gifts this year.

''I’m choosing something that is in my budget,'' she said. ''I’m always paying attention to the price.''

Aramaisian is one of millions of people across Europe who spend money on gifts during Christmas, which is a religious celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

But Christmas is also a commercial holiday, during which the average European Union resident plans to spend hundreds of euros on gifts for family and friends, according to an international financial corporation ING survey conducted between Oct.16 and Nov.5. in 2014.

The ING survey interviewed 1,000 people from several European countries and found that the average U.K. resident planned to spend €440 on Christmas gifts this year. The average Belgian on the other hand planned to spend €190 on Christmas gifts this year.

''Christmas is about spending precious time with friends and family for many people rather than spending a lot of money on gifts,'' the ING survey said. ''However, with the pressure to buy also a reality, examining the festive season budget is also important,'' it added.

This year’s Christmas comes amid sensitive economic times in the EU, where countries such as Belgium, where the bloc’s headquarters is located, faced weekly strikes between Nov.24 and Dec.15 against austerity measures.

The strikes organized by Belgium’s three main trade unions represented some three million workers and were called to protest against the new center-right government’s plans to extend the retirement age, cut healthcare spending and delay indexation of wages in relation to inflation.

The linguistically-divided country, split between French, Dutch and German speakers, is facing a slow-moving economy, which is expected to grow little more than one percent this year.

On Nov.6, about 100,000 workers took to the streets of Brussels to protest against the government’s austerity measures and pledges to cut corporation tax from 33 percent to 25 percent.

Last Friday, more than 1,000 protesters gathered in Brussels to express their anger against EU’s plans to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the U.S.

Critics argue the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will allow corporations to avoid national laws in several countries, posing a threat to the rule of law and public services.

Farmers and trade unionists set off firecrackers and blocked roads with tractors outside the European Commission building during last Friday’s protest – hours after EU leaders agreed Thursday night on a €315 billion investment program, aimed at kick-starting the bloc’s economic growth.

The agreement on the investment package came after an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in early November, accusing hundreds of major corporations, including Pepsi, IKEA and FedEx of securing secret tax deals with Luxembourg.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who planned the investment package, was prime minister and finance minister of Luxembourg at the time of secret tax deals. 

The €315 billion investment program calls for setting up a European Fund for Strategic Investments in the European Investment Bank to mobilize €315 billion in new investments between 2015 and 2017. Juncker has said the investment package could create up to 1.3 million jobs in the EU.

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz has said that poverty in the EU is “a damning reality.”

Speaking at the Fourth Annual Convention of the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion on Nov.20 in Brussels, Schulz said: ''Through the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU countries engaged to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by the end of the decade.’’

One out of every five non-EU citizens aged 18 and above were not able to afford their bills, keep their home adequately warm or take a one-week holiday away from home in 2013, Eurostat revealed on Nov.21.

''I’m buying presents that I can afford…I mean for my parents they don’t care what I offer them,'' Aramaisian said. ''It can also be a small gift, but I know they want it and need it,'' she said.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Aralık 2014, 09:57
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