The reported indicated that the incidence of absolute poverty at the household level was broadly stable compared to 2015, but the rate of absolute poverty rose by 8.5 per cent between 2015 and 2016 among households with three or more minor children.

ISTAT added that in 2016, the incidence of poverty among individuals was higher in the South area (9.3 per cent), counting for over 2 million people.

The Secretary General of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, condemned the figures.

"I should like these huge figures to move consciences and political agendas," he said.

“There are enormous outcasts that cannot be left at the margins."

Politicians, especially those from opposition parties, called on the government to combat the so-called "scourge".