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Profound policy failure as EU focussing on balance sheets and not on people

There has been a profound failure of policy across the EU since the 2008 crash, a failure that raises serious questions concerning the EU’s commitment to protecting its millions of powerless and vulnerable people, according to Social Justice Ireland’s latest research study on EU developments.

During the crisis years, the EU has focused on fiscal consolidation and economic recovery as well as on protecting the euro and the banks; at the same time it has failed to address the social consequences of the austerity approach which is being used to resolve the problems caused by the crash.  This study reviews the social situation across the EU (28 countries) focusing particularly on work, investment, poverty, taxation and social inclusion.

There is, as yet, no integrated EU strategy that consistently and comprehensively promotes economic recovery while also protecting EU citizens especially those who are vulnerable and powerless. This may lead to a healthy balance sheet but the lack of social inclusion and social cohesion has hugely negative impacts on millions of people in the EU.

The report shows that

  • The past five years have seen an EU-wide failure to deal with poverty and social exclusion.
  • Despite recent improvements unemployment remains a huge challenge that is far from being adequately addressed.
  • The level of social investment is critically important if poverty and unemployment are to be addressed effectively.
  • The level of total taxation is important in this context as all countries combining high social investment and below-average poverty rates also have an above-average total tax-take.

Countries in Scandinavia and Central Europe tend to demonstrate higher levels of taxation, better protection of their populations from poverty and social exclusion, and also have lower unemployment rates, whereas, countries in the South, and periphery, of Europe tend to have lower levels of taxation, and also less well-developed social investment approaches, higher rates of poverty or social exclusion, and of unemployment.

The report concludes that without raising resources, countries cannot invest in the infrastructure and the services required, to promote inclusion and to sustain development.

In making decisions on the future of the EU, it must be recognised that economic development, social development and environmental protection, are fundamentally inter-related.  This means that Europe must be seen as not only concerned with the goal of budgetary consolidation, and the resolution of the debt crisis, but also with promoting justice, and promoting equality and social inclusion. Much greater action to achieve such outcomes is required at European level.

The full study may be accessed here.