“Overcoming the crisis of confidence”

Fair opportunities for all – this is what the leaders of the EU states want to discuss at the social summit in Gothenburg starting Friday. A recent study shows: The EU has become more socially just. Nevertheless, the DGB calls for more commitment from the German government.

"We call on the German government to work to ensure that fundamental social rights finally take precedence over competition law. "We need binding European workers’ rights so that the social dimension of the single market is significantly strengthened," DGB head Reiner Hoffmann told Die Welt (Thursday) ahead of the EU social summit in Gothenburg on Friday.

As examples of binding European workers’ rights, the DGB cited the demand for equal pay for equal work in the same place and Europe-wide rules on occupational health and safety based on European directives. The social summit must provide clear guidelines on how to deal with these ies in the future.

"Strong pillar for social justice"

"The EU social summit in Gothenburg can be an important step toward overcoming the crisis of confidence in Europe," Hoffmann continued. But this will only succeed "if previously non-binding rules with weak specifications become a strong pillar for social rights".

Marianne Thyssen, the EU Commissioner for Social Affairs, emphasized the importance of the meeting in Gothenburg: "This is the first time in twenty years that European heads of state and government have met for a social summit and that they agree that social Europe is the way forward. I think this will be a strong signal to people."

"Social justice index shows positive development"

According to a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the EU has become more socially just in recent years. According to the "Social Justice Index 2017" published in Gutersloh on Thursday, the main driver for the improved participation opportunities is a noticeable recovery on the labor market.

Ten years after the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008, there are now signs of a trend reversal. "The bottom has been reached, but there are still clear deficits," concluded Daniel Schraad-Tischler, an expert on the labor market and social security systems and author of the study.

Gap between northern and southern Europe

For example, according to the study, unemployment has fallen significantly across the EU, but the recovery is proceeding at two speeds. The gap between northern and southern Europe remains wide – especially with regard to the threat of poverty and social exclusion of children and young people in southern Europe. Germany belongs to the "extended top group" and economically to the top performers. However, the authors see deficits in the fight against poverty as well as in education and intergenerational justice.

The foundation has used the index to examine participation opportunities in the EU annually since 2008, based on six dimensions: Poverty prevention, labor market, education, health non-discrimination and intergenerational equity. The study is based primarily on the most recent data from the European Statistics Authority, covering the year 2016.

Scandinavia in the lead

The Scandinavian countries, as well as the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Netherlands, rank at the top, ahead of Germany. Greece is at the bottom of the rankings behind Romania, Bulgaria and Italy. However, the data on social justice refers to the standard of living in the respective country. For example, the poverty risk is 60 percent of the median income of the corresponding EU country. So a direct comparison is not possible in all areas.

Germany has the lowest youth unemployment in the EU and ranks in the top four for the overall employment index, the general unemployment rate and the labor force participation of older workers. However, Schraad-Tischler criticizes a high proportion of long-term unemployed people. It does not succeed to melt away the base lastingly. Furthermore, despite a "humming economy," there has been no progress in the fight against the risk of poverty.

The study also sees a "mixed picture" in terms of educational opportunities. She sees intergenerational justice in an imbalance, for example, due to the pension level and the national debt at the expense of younger people.

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