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Coping with social change in the global economy - 02/07/2008

Circle of babies wearing yellow, lying on a blue carpet – like the European flag

Discrimination to be tackled under wide EU package on coping with social change in a global economy.

The new "social agenda" also proposes measures to:

  • make medical care outside patient’s home country easier to access
  • strengthen the role of European works councils representing workers in large companies that operate in more than one EU country
  • incorporate international maritime working standards into European law.

EU economic growth has been brisk in recent years and unemployment is down, but almost one in six Europeans are living below or close to the poverty line, including around 8% of working people. And one in seven has suffered discrimination.

Europe’s social dimension has never been more relevant, says Commission president, José Manuel Barroso. “It is inseparable from the EU’s strategy to stimulate growth and provide better jobs for Europeans.”

The Commission advocates more cooperation between countries and a larger coordinating role for the EU. Social spending is relatively high in EU countries – 26% GDP, against 15% in the US and 17% in Japan. But national systems are often incompatible – they don’t work efficiently across borders and create barriers to jobs, education, housing and healthcare for certain groups.

The package coincides with a new poll showing that 49% of Europeans think life in 20 years will be worse than today, while 38% believe it will improve. A large majority expect social inequality to increase, and think it will be harder to find affordable housing and healthcare and to get a decent job, even with a good education. Most also think Europeans will earn less than today because of competition from fast-growing economies like China and India.

Alongside proposals, the package offers data and analysis on:

  • Europe’s Roma minority
  • the education of migrant children
  • challenges facing social services in Europe
  • the EU fund to support the people worst affected by globalisation
  • public wellbeing in the information society
  • European cooperation on schools.

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