Europe fair, but room for improvement- Eurobarometer

Europeans generally see their society as fair, particularly in Scandinavia but income gap, which has increased greatly, was singled out as an issue of concern, according to a Eurobarometer survey. EURACTIV.fr reports.

A majority of Europeans see their society as fair, according to figures published by Eurobarometer on 24 April. The figures obtained from a survey conducted on 28,031 people in December 2017 showed that more than a half of respondents (58%) believe citizens have equal opportunities to get ahead in life.

The majority of respondents also agree that important decisions that are made concerning them are usually taken in a fair way, and that “things that happen in [their] life are fair”.

This apparently positive result masks strong disparities between countries. Of the three main questions asked in the survey, Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Cyprus are at the bottom, while Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland are ranked top.

On other questions, such as opportunities to get ahead, more than 70% of respondents in Malta, Finland and Ireland – compared to 25% in Croatia, France and Greece – believed that they have become more equal than 30 years ago.

Different perceptions on different subjects

The data published by Eurostat is intended for work by the Joint Research Center (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge service. The JRC published its first Fairness Report in 2017, a new priority announced by the Commission and which last year resulted in the adoption of a new European Pillar of Social Rights.

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If the 2017 report pointed to persistent inequalities (income, health, education etc.) especially in regard to social standing and place of residence, the scientific service believes that more research was needed on the perception of inequalities. The research centre has added new factors of possible inequalities to analyse them such as immigration.

Once again the figures released by Eurobarometer showed contrasting opinions, particularly on the theme of immigration. Respondents from Hungary, Greece, Latvia and the Czech Republic mostly disagree that immigration in their country is a good thing.

On the other hand, Sweden, Luxembourg and Ireland are the only member states where more than 20% of respondents believe immigration in their country is a good thing. On globalisation, Sweden, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Denmark are the most optimistic.

Income Inequality

Opinions became more sceptical when the questions addressed concrete cases.

Only 32% of respondents agree that political decisions are applied consistently to all citizens, while 48% disagree.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (84%) think that income differences are too great. This is a view that is particularly widely held in Portugal, Germany and Lithuania, while the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden show the lowest percentages.

In its 2017 report, the JRC pointed out that income inequality had increased within several member states since the mid-1980’s, particularly in the Mediterranean countries.

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