EU Science Hub

What makes a fair society? Insights and evidence

This report responds to the anger and frustration felt by too many EU citizens. It asks whether a rising sense of unfairness may be fuelling it. It defines and measures fairness in a multi-dimensional context and spells out what data can tell us about fairness in Europe today. The report is divided into three sections: First, it examines long and short-term trends in income inequality. It considers whether digitisation and the rise of the collaborative economy could be potential drivers of market income inequalities. It also examines the redistributive impact of direct tax and social benefit systems in Europe. Second, it assesses how family background and geographical location affect labour market outcomes, education and health. The addition of the spatial dimension is an important novelty. Working solely with national averages is dangerous because it risks missing major disparities within countries. The report finds large spatial disparities in terms of income, income inequality, unemployment, the share of people with tertiary education and access to basic services. Finally, the report acknowledges that fairness is subjective. It therefore explicitly tackles the issue of perceptions and attitudes. Using the most recent data available, it looks at perceptions of inequality and how these mirror measurable inequalities. Drawing on behavioural sciences, it also looks at attitudes to fairness. It ends by setting out how DG JRC will continue to work on the different dimensions touched upon in the report.