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Symposium 2015

Virtual Library File - Social Justice in the EU - A cross-national comparison

The Challenge

The first 'EU Social Justice Index', a comparison of all 28 member states of the European Union by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, shows that the concept of social justice is realized to very different exte ...

The first 'EU Social Justice Index', a comparison of all 28 member states of the European Union by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, shows that the concept of social justice is realized to very different extents within the EU. Whereas the opportunities for every individual to engage in broad-ranging societal participation are best developed in the northern European countries, many other EU countries show massive inequalities.

Such disparities are gaining new political weight in the light of recent research by the IMF and the OECD showing that equality is actually beneficial for economic growth. Social justice, it appears, is therefore no longer a goal worth pursuing for its own sake but it constitutes the very precondition for future economic success - a paradigm shift in economic thinking. A new social model that strives for both social justice as well as growth now seems desirable and achievable.  As a result, however, the growing divide in Europe in terms of social justice would have even more serious consequences with regard to economic growth. It could firmly establish a two-tier Europe.

This report analyses the realization of the concept of social justice in all 28 member states of the European Union (EU). It shows clearly that EU countries vary considerably in their ability to create a truly inclusive society and identifies a great gap between wealthy northern European countries (Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands) and the crisis-battered southern European countries (Greece, Spain and Italy), as well as Ireland and Hungary. The comparison reveals a predominantly negative trend: in the course of the crisis, the reach and scope of social justice have declined in the majority of EU countries. Only three of them – Poland, Germany and Luxembourg – have proven capable of improving significantly in comparison to the 2008 Social Justice Index.