The poverty rates of the Italian population have significantly grown over the past few years due to the effect of the country's longest postwar recession, national statistics institute Istat and local associations have highlighted in recent reports.
A study released by Istat on Monday said around 16.6 percent of Italian citizens, or around 10 million people, live in relative poverty, and more than 6 million of these, or 9.9 percent of the country's population, live in absolute poverty.
Relative poverty has especially worsened for households with four and five or more members, particularly couples with two children, especially when the children are minors, Istat noted.
The rate of absolute poverty has strongly increased in impoverished southern regions, where the number of the absolutely poor, meaning those who cannot afford to live a dignified life, rose from 2.3 million in 2012 to 3 million last year, the Rome-based institute added.
In 2013, the relative poverty threshold, for a two-member household, was equal to 972 euros (1,324 U.S. dollars), Istat noted.
According to the country's largest farm association Coldiretti, last year nearly half a million children under five years old in Italy needed food assistance, up 13 percent over 2012. Some 35 percent of them live in southern regions, the association said.
Another study conducted by Caritas, an organization aimed at assisting the poor, underlined that poverty was affecting parts of society previously seen as not very vulnerable to the economic crisis, such as employed families with two children living in the wealthier central and northern regions.
Caritas said social services have also weakened in Italy, where lack of appropriate response from the recent governments has contributed to the worsening situation. The organization called on the cabinet of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to enact measures to tackle the "scourge" of poverty.
Despite some signs of slight improvement, recent indicators were still painting a mixed picture of the Italian economy.
Industrial production fell in May, while unemployment levels remained high at 12.6 percent and the government debt was at around 133 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
On Monday, the Italian central bank said the country's public debt rose in May by 20 billion euros (27 billion U.S. dollars) over the previous month to hit a new record high of 2.16 trillion euros (2.94 trillion U.S. dollars).