Social Assessment : Is Europe a Haven of Social Well-Being ?

European Social Policy, February 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Social Assessment : Is Europe a Haven of Social Well-Being ?


"How can the social well-being of all Europe's citizens be best advanced within a globalising world?" This question will be at the heart of the communication on the social realities' of Europe, which the European Commission is due to adopt on 21 February in response to a request in June 2006 from the European Council. To launch the debate, experts from the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) have produced a detailed, 40-page document, containing nuances that will almost certainly not be included in the communication and which deserve careful reading. The report is not a summary of a stakeholder consultation or a debate about the social acquis, says its authoraRoger Liddle, a former advisor to Tony Blair and a longstanding friend of Peter Mandelson. It is not a formal Commission paper either, adds Liddle, but it is a document aimed at "provoking discussion".

It starts by sweeping aside the differences between member states so as to focus on the common challenges: demography; increasing cultural and ethnic diversity and individualisation of values. After listing the basic trends (post-industrial transition, impacts of the welfare state, the consumer society, demographic changes and changing values), he then goes on to discuss the mainly social aspects of Europe covering employment opportunities, satisfaction in the workplace, social mobility, access to healthcare and ageing as well as family life, inequalities, quality of life, rising crime and insecurity and immigration.

A GAP BETWEEN WINNERS AND LOSERS

Changes in the economy have taken place quickly, due to both internal (facilitated mobility) and external (globalisation) factors, states the report. Between 2000 and 2004 more than 8 million new service sector jobs were created in the EU25, while 1.7 million jobs in the industrial sector were lost. At the same time, the opportunities for mobility in the EU have increased to such an extent that 15% of Europeans (mainly from the Nordic countries) are considering spending their old age in another country.

All member states, he stressed, are faced with a societal transformation between the "cosmopolitans", winners as a result of globalisation and the "losers" left behind by industrial and economic restructuring. …

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