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A Future Worth Living For - Social Policy Conference
Social Justice Ireland's Social Policy Book 2013
The EU is at a major turning point in its development. In recent years the economy has been its central concern and most of its concentration and effort has been on securing economic growth. The social dimension of the EU has been neglected. Despite some rhetoric to the contrary and a few relatively small-scale initiatives, the well-being of its people has been defined in terms of economic benefits principally. Social policies in areas such as education, health, public transport and welfare have been supported principally on the basis of their contribution, or otherwise, to economic growth. The President of the European Central Bank has gone as far as to say that the European Social Model is dead.
The results of this approach are now clear. The first study of the impact of austerity on countries atrisk in the EU was conducted by Social Justice Ireland for Caritas Europa1 and showed that those on low and middle incomes had taken the major hits. Poverty and unemployment have grown. Long-term unemployment and youth unemployment are atrecord levels. Initiatives to address these problems are nowhere close to the scale required to see these trends reversed. A new approach is required if the steady move towards a deeply divided, two-tier society is not to continue and lead to eventual destruction of the European project.
One consequence of this focus was that Irish citizens have been forced to carry the ‘hits’ for the failures of gambling bankers and bondholders. The consequences of these failures of some in the financial sector have been visited on citizens who had no involvement in these reckless activities. The people of Ireland will carry this burden for several generations if there is no change of heart among decision-makers about how such burdens should be shared in a fair and just manner.