Macroeconomic indicators are showing that the long-awaited recovery of our economy has been activated. Although some risks still persist, Funcas forecasts indicate that GDP will grow by 6.3% in 2021 and 5.8% in 2022. This is strong growth that will place Spain at the forefront of the recovery of European economies. Without a doubt, excellent news for our economy.
However, these good prospects should not conceal the social reality facing the country after a very difficult year of pandemic. The economic impact of the health crisis is being enormously uneven, affecting in a special way to the most vulnerable groups, as recipients of incomes lower, people with smaller training or great precariousness work.
The situation of young people - 4 out of 10 were unemployed at the end of 2020 - and of women - with a greater presence in the sectors hardest hit by the crisis - is of particular concern. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty or at risk of social exclusion, and there has also been a change in the configuration of poverty with the incorporation of people with intermediate and even higher education. According to preliminary studies, this explains the 40 to 60% increase in the volume of social interventions carried out by organisations such as the Red Cross and Caritas.
This difficult context has highlighted, more than ever if possible, the importance of the Obra y Acción Social work undertaken by the foundations associated with CECA. Throughout 2020, and despite operational and logistical difficulties, these entities have managed to mobilise around 20,000 volunteers and reach almost 25 million beneficiaries. Half of them, more than 12.9 million, belong to specific groups, such as children and youth, people at risk of social exclusion, people with special needs and the elderly.
This has been possible thanks to a social investment of 772 million euros, which once again makes Obra y Acción Social the largest private social investor in our country. This is particularly significant considering that the dividend income of CECA's foundations has been considerably reduced following the ECB's decision limiting the distribution of profits by banking institutions (in which the banking foundations have a significant shareholding).
To address the new scenario caused by the pandemic, foundations have had to work extraordinarily hard to reorient their programmes and reallocate resources to meet the most urgent needs this year, that is, social and health needs. This explains why 70% of the total investment has been concentrated primarily in the areas of Social Action and Research with an endowment of 327 and 208 million euros respectively.
The measures implemented by these areas notably include, for example, support for soup kitchens and food banks (they assisted more than 1.5 million people, 360,000 of whom were under the age of 14) and support for 350 research projects to combat Covid-19. As well as the distribution of medical supplies at a time when, it is worth remembering, there was a pressing problem of a global shortage of such items.
As mentioned at the beginning, the incipient improvement in our economy is encouraging news and will undoubtedly help to address the difficult social situation that the pandemic has exacerbated. However, we cannot disregard the fact that if the most vulnerable groups are the first to feel the impact of a crisis, they are also often the last to benefit from the effects of the recovery.
In this regard, CECA's Obra Social will continue to be close to those most in need, acting as a backbone to strengthen social cohesion and the welfare state.
Moreover, given the scale of the challenge we face, it is urgent that we use the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan to lay the foundations for truly inclusive growth, implementing ambitious reforms and maximising the social impact of European aid. With 23% of our population living at risk of social exclusion, our country cannot afford to waste this unique opportunity. We must take advantage of this crisis to change the trend.