Despite years of sluggish economic growth, Europe is still a rich continent. But that relative wealth hides deep inequalities both within and between nations. The Scandinavian EU Member States (Sweden, Finland, and Denmark) are among the most equal societies in the world. Yet the nearby Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
In Romania, over half of children under 16 are at risk of poverty and social exclusion; in Denmark, that number is less than 15%. Should policymakers be concerned by growing inequality, or is this a case where government should let the free market do its thing? Does more effort need to be made to tackle social inequality?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from J M, arguing that widening social inequality was leading to a collapse of trust in mainstream politics and the rise of far-right and far-left parties. If the gap between rich and poor is allowed too grow to wide then J M argues that it will threaten the political stability of Europe.
How would YOU cut social inequality? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
Well, we need to find a mechanism of redistributing wealth according not only to who is the most powerful, but also who needs more. We need to do that, as well as going back to one of the founding principles of the European Union, which was the principle of social justice. Not equality for everybody, but social justice. And this is something that doesn’t exist today. We need the kind of solidarity that does not exist in today’s European Union.
I would say that taxation is a very, very important policy field to tackle here. We need more coordination on a European level in order to create fiscal policies that don’t create more inequality but that give the state space to manuevre with regards to expenditure, to fight against problems like unemployment, to invest in the economy, and to do other important things that are relevant at the moment, such as the fight against climate change.
So, we need these fiscal tools at the European level, and an increase on the basis in which we can work politically. And, on the other hand, to fight against tax evasion exactly to have the same impact, fighting against inequality and boosting the economy.
The EPP would cut social inequality by assisting families with targeted help, fighting discrimination and helping disadvantaged groups, and by ensuring level playing field conditions for all.
Laura Ferrara (EFD), Member of the European Parliament:
An easy, immediate and efficient solution to this problem is to introduce a guaranteed minimum income. It could help people who are falling into poverty and it is a real economic measure. It could increase consumption of primary goods and, therefore, could have a direct impact on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) that could increase their profits by triggering a virtuous circle for workers and companies.
Curious to know more about the gap between rich and poor across Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – 2nd_Order_Effect
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