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210914 PUDI Report

Regular reports on the growing Poverty, Unemployment, Debt and Inequality of the neo-capitalist world

Europe:

Social injustice has once again clearly increased in recent years, most obviously in the crisis-battered southern European countries of Greece, Spain and Italy, as well as in Ireland and Hungary. However, a predominantly negative trend is also evident overall: In the majority of EU countries, the reach and scope of social justice has declined in the course of the crisis. Only three countries – Poland, Germany and Luxembourg – have proven able to improve significantly in comparison to the 2008 Social Justice Index.”

... the rigid austerity policies pursued during the crisis and the structural reforms aimed at economic and budgetary stabilization have had, in most countries, negative effects with regard to social justice. [...] social security systems have been badly undermined by austerity measures in many countries, as has the ability to invest in critical future-oriented policy areas such as education or research and development.”

The gap between participation opportunities in the still-wealthy countries of northern Europe and in the crisis-struck southern nations has thus significantly increased. This is a highly explosive situation with regard to societal cohesion and social stability within the European Union. Should these social divisions persist for some time, or even worsen further, this will endanger the future viability of the entire European integration project.”

... Sweden and Finland’s longtime efforts to combat relatively high rates of youth unemployment have not yet been successful. In Sweden, 23.5 percent of young people lacked employment according to recent figures, along with 19.9 percent in Finland.”

... the strong employment statistics and very low rate of youth unemployment in cross-EU comparison should not obscure other justice deficits within the German labor market. In recent years, the emergence of a dual labor market has been increasingly evident, with poor vertical permeability from 'atypical' employment relationships (enlarged low-wage sector, temporary employment) to 'normal working conditions'. This is today a key problem, demanding further reform efforts. In addition, Germany and Austria show similar problems in the area of education. The influence of social background on students’ educational successes remains much too high in both countries.”

The bottom third of the social justice rankings, with the exception of Slovakia (17th place), Ireland (18th) and Latvia (23nd), is taken up exclusively by EU member states from southern and south-eastern Europe. These countries show massive shortcomings in most areas of the Social Justice Index, in some cases worsening dramatically in recent years.”

About 25.4 percent of the people within the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (2012, 2013) – a figure about 1.7 percentage points higher than that in 2009. The associated EU-wide rate for children and youth has risen as high as 28 percent. The EU remains far indeed from its self-declared goals in the areas of preventing poverty and social exclusion. [...] A rapid increase in poverty within this at-risk group [children and youth] was also evident in recent years, particularly in the crisis-struck countries. For those affected by severe material deprivation, the basic conditions enabling social participation and a self-determined life simply do not exist.”

Overall, labor market access opportunities have deteriorated in the broad majority of EU member states over the course of the crisis. In the last several years, the EU has come no closer to the goal declared as a part of the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to reach an employment rate of 75 percent. Indeed, this rate has even slightly declined from 66 percent in 2008 to 63.5 percent in 2013.”

Denmark in particular, which at the beginning of the decade served as a model for labor market reform debates in other countries thanks to its flexicurity model, has since 2008 been forced to accept a significant increase in unemployment, from 3.5 percent to a recent 7.2 percent.”

The EU-wide problems with justice within the labor market are above all evident in the unequal distribution of access opportunities for various at-risk groups within society. Unemployment among youth and low-skilled individuals, for example, is a massive problem not only in the crisis-mired southern European countries, but also in countries such as Slovakia and Ireland. In these countries, this situation has additionally developed into an extremely high rate of long-term unemployment. This is particularly worrisome given that long-term unemployment figures among the greatest risk factors for poverty and social exclusion. Also problematic are distinct trends in almost all countries toward a dual labor market, with in some cases dramatic increases in atypical forms of employment with a low degree of vertical permeability. In Spain and Cyprus, for example, more than 90 percent of people with temporary work contracts are involuntarily in this kind of employment.”

Tendencies toward discrimination and polarization are effectively prevented in the still comparatively egalitarian societies of the Nordic countries. However, even in these small and homogeneous states, income polarization is increasing (except Finland); moreover, particularly for people of foreign origin, labor market and educational opportunities are narrower than for natives and people without an immigrant background.”

... while all EU member states face the challenge of providing equal opportunities for participation to people with immigrant backgrounds, a number of EU countries also show very significant tendencies toward discrimination against specific minorities. This is particularly true with regard to the Roma, who are subject to significant restrictions and discrimination in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, among other nations. These population groups broadly lack equal opportunities for self-realization.”

Massive cuts in areas such as education or research and development, as have recently been observed in Spain, for example, are self-defeating from the perspectives both of social justice and of member states’ future economic viability. Cuts in these areas are particularly counterproductive and endanger the future viability of the countries concerned.”

Greece:

Greece is at the bottom of the ranking with a youth unemployment rate of nearly 60 percent, a rapid increase in the risk of poverty particularly among children and youth, a health care system badly undermined by austerity measures, discrimination against minorities as a result of strengthened radical political forces, and an enormous mountain of debt that represents a mortgage on the future of coming generations. The resulting diminution of prospects for broad swathes of society represents a significant danger to the country’s political and social stability. These developments illustrate that the cuts induced by the crisis are not administered in a balanced way throughout the population.”

The massive underfunding of the Romanian health care system, for example, leads to broad treatment inequalities and corruption. Problems in Greece have taken a similar course. There, harsh austerity measures have led to drastic cuts in the health care system. In addition, rising poverty has meant that many people are no longer in the position to undergo essential treatments.”

... and, an example of a Europe towards the right direction:

... the Finnish government, despite an already high degree of justice and quality, has again in its current 2011–2016 government education-policy program placed special focus on the prevention of poverty, inequality and exclusion.”

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