Inequality in Europe is growing because of policies implemented over the past 20 years. This has contributed to deeper social and wealth disparities and to weaker social cohesion. The economic crisis over the past number of years has also contributed to these disparities and broader social consequences are emerging.
The World Health Organisation and other key research highlights overwhelming evidence that more equal societies do better for everybody, including reduced levels of obesity, child deaths, mental health as well as higher life expectation levels. Therefore we work to ensure that inequalities in our society are tackled including:
- Inequalities in income and wealth
The income gap has increased, with the reduction of medium incomes and salaries at the lower end. Income inequality in OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century and the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%.
- Inequalities in education
Children don’t have the same educational rights – for example Roma children are discriminated and excluded from mainstream education and are over-represented in special education. Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds as well as young migrant or youths with ethnic minority backgrounds are over-represented in children leaving school without a diploma. Only 9% of Europeans with disabilities go to university, due to lack of accessibility and reasonable accommodation and 61% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender youths face bullying at schools.
- Inequalities in health
The reduction of health spending in Europe is fostering health inequalities as the costs are shifted to households. In practice this means denying people (in particular those on low incomes) the right to access quality health care, which is a fundamental service of general interest.
- Inequalities in access to housing and increasing homelessness
Housing affordability is worsening in many contexts, and austerity measures are impacting upon housing support and homeless services in a range of countries. 5.2 % of the EU population live in severe housing deprivation. 11 % live in a household where the total housing costs represent more than 40% of the total disposable household income – rising to 26% in the market-rate rental sector. Homelessness remains an unacceptable reality in all EU member states. There is evidence of increasing levels of homelessness over the past 5 years in at least 15 member states. It is important that all member states invest in affordable housing and strategies to tackle homelessness.
- Inequalities between women and men
The crisis has halted the gains made across Europe in integrating women in the labour market. Women’s employment rates were increasing steadily until 2008 when the crisis hit Europe, but have stagnated ever since. Austerity has reduced access to and financing of childcare services and care services for the elderly and other dependents. In 2010 28.3% of women’s inactivity and part time work was explained by the lack of care services against 27.9% in 2009.