Inequality and Crisis in Europe

Inequality Watch organized with the Institute for European Studies an international conference, “Inequality and Crisis in Europe”.

Inequality Watch organized an international conference, “Inequality and Crisis in Europe”, on the 6th of April 2012 at the University of Paris 8, Saint-Denis, France.

The aim of the conference was to contribute to a better understanding of recent socio-economic trends and their relationship to the economic and financial crisis since the late 2000s. Three sessions were proposed. The first focused on the impact of the crisis on income inequality in Europe ; the second was about the evolution of social protection and living conditions in Europe ; and the last tried to propose social solutions to cope with the crisis.

The first session was introduced and chaired by Michael Förster, analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the Social Policy Division. He described the evolution of income inequality in rich countries between 1980 and 2008. Income inequality increased in the majority of rich countries, especially in Sweden and Germany. Loris Vergolini (Disuguaglianze sociali) from Italy, Cédric Rio (Observatoire des inégalités) from France and Renato Carmo (Observatório das Desigualdades) from Portugal analysed also the evolution of income inequality in their own countries for the same period. We observe a decrease of income inequality in Portugal and an increase in France and Italy.

For the moment it is impossible to know the impact of the crisis on income distribution due to the lack of data. But all presentations proposed an estimation of it, underlining the rise of unemployment and the evolution of capital income.

Please find the four presentations below :

- Michael Förster, "Why Income Inequality keeps Rising" (in French)
PDF - 1.3 Mo

- Loris Vergolini, "Income inequalities in Italy : trend over time"

PDF - 109.6 ko

- Cédric Rio, "Income Inequality and crisis in France" (in French)

PDF - 808.4 ko

- Renato Carmo, "Inequalities in Portugal : recent and structural trends"

PDF - 806 ko

The second session was chaired by Yann Mens, Editor in chief of Alternatives Internationales. The first presentation was introduced by Philippe Pochet, General Director of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and treated the evolution of social protection, especially for unemployment, before and during the crisis. He pointed out the general reduction of social protection in Europe. For example, most of the countries reduced the duration of unemployment insurance. According to Barbora Brlayova and Philippe Steck from the Caisse nationale des allocations familiales (Cnaf), the evolution of family public policies during the crisis is more contrasted. Scandinavian countries and Germany increased family benefits whereas others such as Spain or the United Kingdom, severely hit by the crisis, decided to abolish some child benefits. Finally, Camille Peugny, sociologist at University Paris 8, described the difficulties encountered by young Europeans in the last years. For him, the economic and social crisis has exacerbated such difficulties especially because of the rise of precarity in employment for twenty years.

The last session was chaired by Gilles Raveaud, economist at the Institute of European studies. Isabelle Engsted-Maquet from the DG Employment, Social Affairs and inclusion of the European Commission, described objectives and priorities pointed out in the European Commission Strategy “Europe 2020” to reduce inequalities, with the focus put especially on poverty. But according to Wojtek Kalinowski from Veblen Institute and Patrick Vassalo from the City Hall of Saint-Denis, we need alternative policies. Wojtek Kalinowski insisted on the idea of social investment. Denouncing the exclusion of the Roma all over Europe, Patrick Vassalo pointed out the necessity to guarantee some minimum social rights to all people living in Europe.

Photo / © Maxime Ladaique


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