The first annual review of Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) published by the European Commission, concluded that a mix of employment and social policies is necessary to ensure a long-term job-rich recovery in the current climate of fiscal consolidation and bleak economic outlook. EPHA was invited to join a launch of the review at a DG Employment-organised expert conference on the issue.
Furthermore, the review examined patterns of poverty and social exclusion in Europe and the phenomenon of in-work poverty - all of which are key determinants of health inequalities in Europe.
Increased poverty in Europe: The report shows that poverty remains high with 115 million Europeans (23 % of the EU population) at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2010. That is more than reported (as of 20%) in the previous years. The rates, however, can be as high as 41% in Bulgaria and Romania, 38% in Latvia, or 33% in Lithuania. Notably, 35% of the Bulgarian population faces severe material deprivation, 31% in Romania and 27% in Latvia. Serious consideration should be given to the fact that over 20% of children (younger than 18) are at risk of poverty with Bulgarian and Romanian children growing up in severe material deprivation (37% and 36% respectively).
The findings showed how the economic crisis has aggravated Europe’s structural weaknesses like income inequality and the disappearance of medium-paid jobs, especially in manufacturing and construction.
On a positive note - although sustainability and quality are questioned - a slight increase in the so-called white sector (health and social care) has been observed, especially with regards to women and the elderly participation.
Geographical imbalance: The review stresses that while Eastern Europeans are more often facing severe material deprivation, in the Northern and Western Member States, exclusion from the labour market prevails. Elderly (EU average of 16%), lone parents (37%) and low-work intensity households are at particular risk of poverty and social exclusion. Over 8% of people with a job are at risk of in-work poverty – so called "working poor". It is of particular importance to see how social transfers impact in-work poverty, being able to decrease it from the EU average of 18% to over 8%. But the practice is not equal all over the EU.
The review showed in particular that, while inequality has decreased or grown only slightly in historically more unequal countries (like Italy or Greece), it has increased in many traditionally egalitarian Member States, such as Nordic countries and the general trend remains upwards. Raising participation in employment, better social spending and fairer taxation of top incomes and wealth can contribute to mitigating inequalities.
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