Inequality and radical politics

Posted by in Activism, Development, Economics, Politics

Javier López, a Spanish Member of the European Parliament, posted “Inequality more than matters” on the Social Europe forum. Two points he didn’t make are important politically. He says “reducing inequality by one Gini point would translate into an accumulated increase in growth of 0.8%” and “gains have been unfairly distributed due to the absence of the necessary compensation mechanisms”.

When this debt-funded boom crashes we will need to plan for balanced economies, not growth regardless of the social cost – growth is not the right target/measure. And there is no redistribution scheme which can compensate for fully free capital and labour markets – nations and regions need to start talking about which forms of reduced capital freedom will produce the best lives for the most people. A summary follows of the many good points he did include:

“Inequality is the biggest challenge of our time. It undermines social confidence and reduces support for democratic institutions. It lurks behind the new toxic relationship that western societies have established with their future and explains much of recent resentment-driven electoral phenomena and the surge of identity politics with its disruptive backlash.

According to institutions such as the IMF or OECD, inequality hinders growth and the creation of quality employment. They also affirm that excessive and increasing inequality levels imply direct social costs, prevent social mobility and may also inhibit sustainable growth now and in future.

The polarization of incomes and unemployment restricts effective demand, frustrates innovation and can cause further financial fragility. High and increasing levels of inequality obstruct not only progress towards poverty eradication, but also efforts to improve social inclusion and cohesion.

In fact, the OECD highlights that reducing inequality by one Gini point would translate into an accumulated increase in growth of 0.8% during the following five years. In this respect, Europe has moved in the opposite direction. Between 2005 and 2015, the Gini coefficient rose from 30.6 to 31 and income disparities between the top and bottom 20% have increased from 4.7 to 5.2.

Several factors have contributed to getting us into this situation. The extensive changes in the labour market should be at the centre of our worries: the proliferation of “atypical” jobs, the weakening of collective bargaining, the deterioration in working conditions, increased temporary working, and policies of internal wage devaluation. In short, the labour market has stopped being a stable source of prosperity for many people.

At the same time, other factors have strongly come to the fore. Globalization and the opening up to international markets have left some traditional and important industrial sectors in western economies unprotected. The gains have been unfairly distributed due to the absence of the necessary compensation mechanisms. Robotization and digitalization have had a similar impact. Meanwhile, aggressive policies of fiscal consolidation have weakened our redistribution armoury and left millions out in the rain.

These are some of the conclusions of the report “Combating inequalities as a lever to create jobs and economic growth”, for which I have been rapporteur and that has recently been adopted in the European Parliament (building upon valuable contributions by Social Europe and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation).

It is a report in which the European Parliament establishes combating inequalities as a political priority of the EU and proposes a roadmap with norms, tools and resources to achieve this. It establishes the need to balance the European Semester by introducing genuine monitoring of the Union’s social dimension and feeding this data and any conclusions into the country-specific recommendations. It focuses on the need to reinforce European labour legislation in order to strengthen working rights and incomes, and to introduce new EU-wide solidarity mechanisms to combat child poverty, the gender gap and social exclusion. Finally, the report emphasizes the need to improve our fiscal coordination and harmonization in the fight against tax fraud, evasion and disloyal unethical fiscal engineering that happen in this field.

It is no coincidence that the adoption of this report accompanies the signing of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar represents a modest step that commits the European institutions to twenty goals and derived rights that must be secured via binding mechanisms over the coming years. Though still inadequate, it is a step in the right direction. Inequality more than matters and must be at the centre of Union policies when it comes to economic growth, institutional stability and social protection: the three pillars of the European integration.”

About Javier López

by Javier López on 7 December 2017. Javier López has been a Spanish Member of the European Parliament since 2014. He is the holder of the Spanish Socialist delegation in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly of the European Parliament.

Inequality More Than Matters