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ISSUE 49 page 5

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European unions join mobilisation against poverty and social exclusion

The gap between rich and poor has widened in all European countries in recent years. Not just inequality but poverty and the inability to escape its consequences seem to be endemic, even in a prosperous part of the world like the European Union. In recognising this the European Commission has initiated the ‘European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion’ and invited trade union bodies to play a vital part in it.

EUROSTAT STATISTICS ON POVERTY IN THE EU make for sobering reading. In one of the richest areas of the globe 17% of citizens are at risk of poverty with the under-17s and over-65s most precarious. These 80 million people live on less than 60% of average European household income. In 2008, 37% of European citizens could not afford a one-week annual holiday away from home, 10% could not afford to keep their home adequately warm and 9% could not afford a meal with meat or fish every second day.
Although having a job is the best way to reduce the risk, 8% of employed people are classified as the ‘working poor’. The financial crash and subsequent economic slump have, of course, made things worse and the people of the EU are well aware of the situation as shown by a recent Eurobarometer survey. On average 73% think that poverty is widespread in their country with 84% believing that it has increased in the




to participate ‘in the fight against poverty and social exclusion’, giving voice to the concerns and needs of peopleexperiencing them, engaging with relevant anti-poverty organisations and helping to deconstruct stereotypes and stigmas. One of the organisations that they have already engaged is the European Trade Union Confederation. Having already achieved agreement with European employers’ organisations on a framework text on inclusive labour markets it wants to seize the opportunity that the dedicated year offers to secure a political commitment on employment, social protection, quality public services and an inclusive labour market by the end of 2010. The ETUC stresses that it has been active in combating poverty for twenty years and working with its partners the European Anti-Poverty Network and the European Disabilty Forum it intends to hold demonstrations, make appeals and organise conferences focussing on ‘the guarantee of a decent income, the development of social standards, access to quality social services and access to employment, in particular for disabled people’.

last three years. As regards who is responsible for improving things, most people (53%) look firstly to their nationagovernment but 74% see the EU’s rôle as important. Bearing this in mind it is very apposite that the European Commission has launched its ‘European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion’. The Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities directorate says that ‘time is ripe to renew our commitment to solidarity, social justice and greater inclusion’ and provides a list of general actions such as inspiring ‘each and every European citizen’



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