Hope on the horizon for the fight against inequalities

After decades of over-looking the negative social, economic and political consequences of inequalities, economic actors and decision-makers are becoming more and more interested in social policies.

This shift can be seen clearly when looking at the change in rhetoric of some key organisation in the fight against inequality; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has started monitoring the effects of its policies on social protection, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is becoming one of the most vocal international organisations for inclusive growth. At European Union level, the current European Commission is trying to profile its mandate upon social issues, with the European Pillar of Social Rights, the reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe, and the organisation of a social summit with Heads of State and Government that will align discussions on the future of Europe with those on social rights.

This change is due to both economic and political reasons.

Economically, the failure of trickle-down economics is becoming increasingly evident. This approach has dominated economic thinking over the last 40 years, based on the assumption that increasing inequalities between income tiers are good for the economy and that growth should be prioritised over social concerns, as the wealth produced for the richest would eventually trickle down to the rest of the population. On the contrary, there is a mountain of evidence that fighting inequalities and prioritising social investment instead of cuts to services and reductions in social and labour rights have positive effects on growth.

Politically, there is growing awareness that poverty, social exclusion and growing inequality, as well as lack of social mobility and opportunities are fuelling populism and extremism in our societies and jeopardising the support and legitimacy of the EU project. This represents a sword hanging over the sustainability of our democratic systems and the future of EU integration.

These are valid arguments that we have been making when calling for the introduction of EU social standards to promote people’s social rights and ensure everyone’s fundamental right to live a life in dignity and fully participate in society. We are happy that such arguments are being listened to at the highest political level in the EU; Social Platform has been given increasing space in economic fora that were usually off-limits to civil society, including the high-level exchange of views with the IMF, the Commission’s Brussels Economic Forum, and the OECD’s forum on inclusive growth.

These are certainly positive developments that we welcome. As representatives of people who the EU’s economic policies have traditionally left behind – such as children, homeless people, and ethnic and religious minorities – Social Platform and our 47 members will do everything possible to seize this opportunity.

This is a shared responsibility that calls for the contribution of all actors involved: politicians, policy-makers, academics, civil society organisations, and business and trade union representatives. We’re excited to help this change in rhetoric be translated into real policy change!