The Welfare of Europe's Children: Are EU Member States Converging?

The Welfare of Europe's Children: Are EU Member States Converging?

The Welfare of Europe's Children: Are EU Member States Converging?

The Welfare of Europe's Children: Are EU Member States Converging?

Synopsis

Discussion of convergence in the EU in recent years has centred on economic indicators related to monetary union and the single European currency, but it is the convergence of living standards that is the ultimate goal of European integration.This book analyses the living standards of the nearly 80 million children in the EU, who represent over a fifth of the Union's total population. The well-being of Europe's children is important now - and the nature of their progress to adulthood will have a major impact on the shape of Europe's future.By analysing the trends of child well-being in Europe over the last two decades, this book asks:Is the well-being of children in the EU becoming more similar across member states? Or are countries diverging while their economies converge?These issues are addressed with a wealth of data on different dimensions of the changing welfare of Europe's children - evidence that has not previously been drawn together in a single source. The authors consider in turn the material well-being of children, their health and education, teenage fertility, and young people's own views of their lives. There is careful treatment of conceptual and measurement issues and data quality and comparability, together with reference to a large literature across the different relevant disciplines.This book aims to raise the profile of children in the debate on Europe's future, and in doing so to contribute to the growing discussion of economic and social cohesion in the EU. The analysis is rigorous but it avoids disciplinary jargon and will appeal to a pan-European audience. It is important reading for academics across the social sciences interested in the well-being of children and youth, NGOs working on behalf of the young, and local and national government policy advisers concerned with the issues in a domestic or European context.

Excerpt

The introduction of a single currency in most of the European Union (EU) in January 1999 saw great attention paid to the process of convergence among member states in a handful of macroeconomic indicators: inflation, the government deficit, the national debt, and longterm interest rates. Interest in these indicators has been natural since their convergence was required for participation in monetary union under the terms of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty; a requirement, in turn based on the idea that the single currency would not survive if it were introduced across economies which did not resemble each other in fundamental ways.

However, national performance in the eu risks being judged excessively on such macroeconomic criteria. Monetary union, a conclusion of the convergence process, is just a tool to reach a further end of increasing human welfare in Europe – as the Treaty on Union puts it, “the raising of the standard of living and quality of life” (Article 2). the Maastricht criteria should not divert attention from measuring progress towards these goals directly. and not only is the average level of well-being in Europe of concern, or that in particular countries, but also whether well-being is becoming more similar across member states as a whole – whether it is converging. Reduction of disparities in wellbeing among member states is at the heart of the European project. in this book we ask whether that is the direction in which we are moving, focusing on the situation of children. Is the welfare of children in the Union’s member states becoming more or less similar over time?

To some extent this sort of measurement of trends in human welfare in the eu does already take place. While it is macroeconomic convergence that has received the most attention, the Maastricht Treaty also called prominently for “the strengthening of economic and social cohesion”, so as to promote the Union’s “overall harmonious development” (Articles 2 and 130a). the Treaty established a Cohesion Fund to help those countries with relatively low gdp per capita: Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain – the so-called ‘Cohesion Four’. and it . . .

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