Rome, April 17 - Pensioners living in rural Italy are among the worst hit of the millions of retired citizens living in poverty, the national association of retirees said Wednesday. As many as seven in 10 retired people in rural areas live below the poverty line, reported the National Association of Retirees (ANP) and Italian Farmers Confederation (CIA). The groups were reacting to statistics released earlier in the day that showed nearly half of Italy's 7.4 million pensioners received monthly benefits of less than 1,000 euros. The statistics agency Istat also said that about 44% of the country's retirees make do with less than 1,000 euros per month, while 2.2 million of those pensioners (13.3%) receive benefits below 500 euros. Most in that poorest group live in rural areas, where they have been hit hard by higher taxes, cuts to pensions, and reductions to healthcare spending, said the ANP-CIA. That threatens the dignity of Italian pensioners, said Gigi Bonfanti, past secretary-general of labour union CISL. "Millions of people every day must deal with the risk of finding themselves out on the streets at any moment," said Bonfanti. "It is unacceptable that a pensioner cannot live in dignity and may even be forced to cut spending on basic goods".