European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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11 January 2013

New EU report highlights growing divergence in and between member states

Growing divergence leading to social polarisation, stalled progress on gender equality, increasing risks of social exclusion and poverty, and major challenges to social protection schemes and wages, are some of the main findings of the second edition of the EU’s Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) review.

The 476-page report presented by Commissioner Laszlo Andor on 8 January 2013 paints a very gloomy picture of the state of Social Europe. Some of its messages are indeed downright shocking:

  • Unemployment in Europe has risen to record levels: more than 26 million European citizens are currently out of work (figures also confirmed on the same day by Eurostat);
  • the risks of long-term exclusion and marginalization have grown considerably;
  • ever increasing numbers of Europeans are falling back into poverty;
  • earlier progress towards gender equality has all but stalled.

In general, says the Commission report, “a new divide is emerging between countries that seem trapped in a downward spiral of falling output, massively rising unemployment and eroding disposable incomes and those that have at least so far shown some resilience …”

This analysis confirms new research from the ETUI that the process of European integration and convergence – which was the aim of EU enlargement – has gone into reverse. The ETUI’s upcoming Benchmarking Working Europe 2013 (to be published before the Spring Council) will provide a clear and wide-ranging demonstration of this trend towards a “Diverging Europe”.

In a reaction to the Commission’s Employment and Social Developments review, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) sounds the alarm bell. “The European Commission’s report has done no more than lend further credibility to what we have been saying for years: austerity doesn’t work. This week, the International Monetary Fund has once again acknowledged its mistakes: it has seriously underestimated the impact of the austerity measures on Europe’s economies. For its part, the Commission has not questioned itself; yet it does bear its share of responsibility in the choices that have been made, because it has encouraged the austerity that has made the situation worse. If we don’t see some strong policies able to reverse this trend, we will find ourselves facing an even more painful future.”

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