All-embracing social and economic strategies needed to tackle inequalities
GUE/NGL MEPs argue in favour of a new social strategy and a reversal of failed austerity policies
An oral question put to the Commission on tackling inequalities to boost inclusive and sustainable growth in the EU saw GUE/NGL
GUE/NGL MEP Thomas Händel, author of the question on behalf of the Employment Committee of which he is chair, said the Committee had been looking at the growing inequalities in Europe and found that they had never been so significant since the 1960s.
MEP Händel commented: "Europe is losing its credibility for a number of people. Growing inequality is damaging everyone; it doesn't just increase economic difficulties but also political difficulties. The challenge is to find a suitable growth-friendly package of measures that would also reduce differences."
He added: "Proposals to tackle these problems have been very varied but nothing has been done. Suggestions have included improvements in unemployment benefits; an increase in minimum wages, not only at national but at European level; better social benefits, particularly for single parent families and creating jobs that would enable people to live above the poverty line, and not more precarious ones. One current proposal that we have a pillar of social rights is one we can welcome."
"Europe needs a social strategy, a social treaty, good education and training for all, better care for older people and a more ecological and sustainable economy," he said.
French GUE/NGL MEP Patrick Le Hyaric remarked: "We wouldn't have inequalities if we had a different type of development, if we reduced austerity and increased payment for work, if we improved pensions and put job insecurity behind us. Since the 2008 financial shock, we have seen poorer standards of living, growing inequalities and more poor workers."
He continued: "We need to put the current way of thinking behind us and consider a new distribution of wealth and a new way of producing wealth. We urgently need to make some progress towards new social rights for workers and take action against tax evasion, tax havens and create harmonised taxation. Lending leverage could be used, for example by the ECB, for useful investments to create jobs and promote ecological development and output as well as human development. This is an urgent area of work which could lend some impetus to a new European social project."
Spanish MEP Tania González Peñas said there was tangible proof from sources such as the IMF that inequality is undermining growth. "There are 123 million poor people in Europe, or one-quarter of the population; the richest one per cent holds one-third of the wealth. This hasn't happened by chance. It's because of the policies that have been implemented meaning that the crisis has hit the most vulnerable the worst."
"What we need is economic intelligence and common sense," she said, referring to Nobel Prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz who advocates that Europe needs structural reform in the member states and reform of the structure of the eurozone. It needs a reversal of the austerity policies that have failed over and over again in their attempt to improve growth.
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