S&Ds urge Commission to take decisive actions to fight growing inequalities in Europe

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Press release

At a debate on socio-economic inequalities, put on the European Parliament’s agenda by the Socialists and Democrats, acting S&D Group leader Udo Bullmann called on the EU Commission to take rapid and decisive action to combat rising levels of inequality in the EU. Among the concrete measures the S&Ds are calling for are: the introduction of an inequality reduction strategy within the European Semester; a poverty eradication roadmap; a directive on decent working conditions; and a living wage index. This push comes as a wider campaign from the S&D Group to move the EU to a more ambitious level in fighting inequality and poverty in the wider framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Udo Bullmann, acting S&D Group leader, said:
 
“Inequality has reached new shocking levels and is threatening to tear our societies apart, not only globally but also in Europe. In the EU, 120 million people are poor. 28 million children live in households that cannot provide for their basic needs: food, healthcare, education or housing. It is shameful that the richest continent of the world does not take care of its own children rightfully.
 
“Even though the European economy is on the mend again and unemployment is going down, income and wealth inequality are on the rise. An alerting 40% of wealth is in the hands of only 1% of the richest Europeans.  Clearly, the neoliberal myth of trickle-down economics is not going to sort out the situation, nor are today’s insufficient policy efforts. The election of Trump and the Brexit, which have also stemmed from a growing disaffection with the status quo, must be the wake-up call for the last sleepwalkers. The growing gap between the rich and the poor is undermining the social and democratic fabric of our societies. It is high time to act now.
 
“Big challenges require strong political answers. We Socialists and Democrats fight side by side with NGOs and social partners for strong policy responses that will work: we campaign for an equitable and sustainable society of shared prosperity, opportunity and dignity. We call on the Commission to rapidly act and introduce an inequality reduction strategy within the European Semester to achieve income growth for the bottom 40%; a poverty eradication roadmap to halve the number of people living in poverty by 2030; a directive on decent working conditions; and create a living wage index to help define appropriate minimum wages in each member state.”
 
Agnes Jongerius, S&D MEP and spokesperson on employment, added:
 
“We Socialist and Democrats have found new, unexpected allies. Even the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank now warn of the damaging consequences of rising inequalities and call for a pay rise, which would benefit businesses, jobs, workers and the European economy. We invite our new allies to also join our fight against precarious work, the gender pay gap and child poverty.
 
“It’s a scandal that working class families are falling behind while big corporations are dodging taxes and driving down wages. Our economy must again work for the benefit of all and ensure that no one is left behind. The Socialists and Democrats will lead this fight for a better and fairer society.”
 
Javi López, S&D MEP and author of a parliamentary report on inequalities, added:
 
"Current unacceptable inequalities are damaging our economy and jeopardising our democratic systems. The EU needs a clear and ambitious roadmap against inequalities to deal with precariousness in the labour market; welfare state inefficiencies; the challenge of digitalisation; the uneven distribution of benefits generated through international trade; gender inequality; and the co-ordination of tax policies. The S&D Group has a longstanding and strong track record in fighting inequalities; for instance, my recently approved report on combating inequalities as a lever to boost job creation and growth, and we will continue this fight.”
 
Note to the editors:
 
State of inequality in Europe - some facts*
  • Almost one person in four experiences poverty or social exclusion, and one young
  • person in three.
  • More than 118.7 million Europeans are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, including 26.9% of children and 17.4% elderly people.
  • Income inequality remains at an all-time high, the Gini coefficient on income distribution increased on average from 0.28 in the 1980s to 0.38 in 2016.
  • The average income of the poorest 10% is 9½ times lower than that of the richest 10%.
  • The 40% of least wealthy households own little over 3% of total wealth, while the 10% of the wealthiest households hold 50%. The extreme concentration of wealth is even more significant to consider, with nearly 40% of total wealth in the hands of the 1% richest Europeans.
  • The post-crisis job gaps are closing on average in Europe, but there are still 1.4 million fewer jobs in the EU in 2015 compared with 2007. In addition, the data do not inform on the decency or quality of these jobs.
  • Gender gaps in employment and earnings have declined in most countries in the EU, but at 9.8% and 12.8% respectively they persist – and women are still disadvantaged in terms of the type of jobs and occupation they hold.
  • There are close links between socio-economic backgrounds and education and health outcomes. Men with lower levels of education have 2.7 years less life expectancy than the better educated, and women, 1.2 years.
  • There is a gap in education outcomes among individuals with different parental socio-economic backgrounds. A child from an advantaged socio-economic background will score on average 20% higher in mathematics than a child from a disadvantaged background.
  • Low-skilled youth who are disconnected from both employment and learning represent 17% of 15-29 year-olds in the EU, and risk being permanently left behind in the labour market.
  • Over the last 20 years, the gap in productivity level between the frontier regions of Europe and the bottom 10% ones increased by 56%.
  • Major inequalities remain across countries in terms of overall employment, with unemployment rates reaching 20.7% in Greece versus 3.7% in Germany.
 
*based on figures by the European Commission and the OECD.