Social inequalities in Europe

To begin with, let’s define what a social inequality is:

There are two kinds of social inequalities: the inequality of conditions which refers to the differences in incomes, wealth and material goods between different people in society and the inequality of opportunities refers to education and health status which are the main notions that enable to benefit from a good social status.

In the whole world, there are many social inequalities: for instance, between developed countries, developing countries and least developed countries.

But let’s focus on Europe:

All the Europeans benefit from a good social protection, but the economic crisis and unemployment increase the inequalities.


The European Union has a secondary role in the social field even if it admitted the necessity to give to Europeans some basics rights: benefiting from family allowance or parental leave to raise children, benefiting from maternity ward or treatment in case of accident, receiving a pension…  These rights have been adopted in all the European countries, even if it took many years. However, each country has its own system to finance health and pensions for its citizens. This financing is mainly insured by the citizens themselves through social security contributions of employers and workers but also by income taxes.


The inhabitants of the European Union benefit from a much better social protection than the ones from other countries, even the richer ones, like the USA. Nevertheless, inequalities persist: there are the most thriving countries which spend the greatest amount of money on social protection. For instance, the Danish and the Dutch, who have the highest standards of living, dedicate more than 30% of their GNP to social protection!  But because of the increase of population and its aging, financing pensions or medical care becomes more and more difficult for the states. Most of the Europeans choose to save up money or to subscribe insurances, but that’s not possible for all the Europeans.

With the economic crisis, unemployment keeps increasing. Thus the number of poor also keeps increasing. They are almost 50 million in the European Union. Are considered as poor, the people whose incomes are so low that their living-conditions are miserable. In Europe, the law insures to the most impoverished the JSA (=the jobseeker’s allowance), that is to say a minimum guaranteed income (in France, it’s called RMI = revenu minimum d’insertion). But from a country to another, this income can vary, creating inequalities.  According to 85% of the Europeans, struggling against joblessness must be a priority for the EU policy.