The Inequality of Material Living Conditions in Eu Countries

By Rakauskiene, Ona Grazina; Volodzkiene, Lina | Economics & Sociology, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

The Inequality of Material Living Conditions in Eu Countries


Rakauskiene, Ona Grazina, Volodzkiene, Lina, Economics & Sociology


Introduction

The quality of life in society is the main factor influencing socio-economic growth. This has mostly been driven by changes in the economic paradigm, as universal monetary methods based on monetary factors and fiscal policies have been replaced by non-orthodox concepts of economic development that emphasise the importance of society's interests and quality of life. The prioritisation of these aspects has led to economic growth and societal satisfaction in EU countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Austria, the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland. At the same time, other countries have underestimated the importance of human resources and still live with the belief that the radical and liberal doctrine of the Washington Consensus - which is criticised more and more - will improve quality of life in society, competitive ability and socio-economic progress. Unfortunately, this might lead to disappointment in existing political systems in various countries and the polarisation of members of society, as well as an uneven distribution of income and resources, high levels of inequality and poverty.

Socio-economic inequality can therefore be considered to have become one of the most relevant problems in the global economy. Studies carried out in the past 10 years (such as those by Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi, Reich, Rogoff and the World Bank) have revealed that a high level of inequality prevents economic growth. Reich (2010) stated that the reasons for the recent global crisis were not the increase in national debts or people's inability to live within their means, but mainly a high level of socio-economic inequality when growth in GDP is caused by unjustified rise in income among the rich (Rakauskiené, 2015). The report by Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi (Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, 2009) revealed that the influence of socio-economic inequality must be analysed in relation to both economic growth and quality of life.

International organisations such as the World Bank, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Commission and Eurostat have carried out studies in relation to socio-economic inequality and quality of life, and their influence on economic development in a particular region or country. The concept of socio-economic inequality has also been researched by Stiglitz, Reich, Atkinson, Piketty, Rakauskiené, Lazutka and others; the concept of wealth has been analysed by Galiniené, JakutytéSungailiené, Pakalniskis and others; wealth inequality has been studied by Chesters, Jurges, Keister, Moller, Simpson, Gollier, Wolff, Bover, Lysandrou, Cragg, Ghayad, Carroll, Young, Wood, Rieger; and aspects involving quality of life have been researched by Puskorius, Servetkiené, Gruzevskis, Merkys, Strimikiené and others. However, it should be noted that the influence of material living conditions on quality of life has not been researched in-depth. The standard means of measuring socio-economic inequality include methods and aspects involving income distribution and inequality of consumption. According to the authors, however, these criteria do not reveal the actual level of inequality. To find out this out, it makes sense to research the distribution of living conditions, which might be referred to as the most adequate criterion that reflects socio-economic inequality.

1. The Importance of Material Living Conditions in Contemporary Socio-economic Development

Socio-economic inequality. Socio-economic inequality is the outcome of modernisation within societies and economic development in the contemporary world. It is influenced by various economic (macro) factors (such as economic growth, policies with regard to taxation, social benefits and allowances, labour market policies and regulations, and income distribution), as well as social and demographic factors (such as family size and composition, income, education, qualifications, skills, age, sex, social status and culture) and psychological (micro) aspects (such as a person's characteristics, way of thinking, health and fears). …

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