The range of inequality levels prevailing in Europe is so wide that it is difficult to consider a “single European model”. There are today vast differences between and within the European Member States when we address the critical issue of inequalities in Europe. As for specific issues, these differences concern income levels, wealth levels and employment gaps. We witness major differences between regions which for CEEP are to be linked to an unequal repartition of key physical and social infrastructures in the European Member States.
CEEP always advocated that key enabling services such as energy, transport, housing, health, education… are a pre-condition to ensure citizens are geared up to face the major transformations our economies are going through. CEEP is particularly concerned by the impact of demographic-ageing, the digitalisation and the adaptation to climate change and a greener economy. All these changes bear the potential to aggravate inequalities if not managed properly. Public services and SGIs should be better supported through targeted investments to give us the tools to address inequalities. As of now we face major weaknesses in the delivery of these essential services. For education and training: there is a gap in education outcomes between individuals with different socio-economic backgrounds, which implies large amounts of wasted potential.
Participation in training activities reflects such inequalities and those with higher levels of basic skills proficiency are five times more likely to attend adult learning activities than low skilled individuals. For Health: the less educated and the poor are more likely to be in worse health and die prematurely than those in more favourable socio-economic circumstances. For example, individuals with lower levels of education have a lower life expectancy than the better educated across all European countries. Isolated territories with lack of transport infrastructures suffer from a lack of accessibility. The lack of provision for quality public transport can have a detrimental impact on social integration and employment. Finally, on Energy and more particularly energy poverty, today in Europe between 50 and 125 million people are unable to afford proper indoor thermal comfort.
Most EU countries have significant levels of energy poverty whilst the share of household expenditure spent on energy is rising in Europe, with increases more prominent in low-income families – whose expenditure increased by 33% between 2000 and 2014. The Romanian presidency of the Council put high on the agenda the topic of addressing inequalities and inclusive growth. CEEP will contribute to this debate by highlighting the critical importance of its members when addressing inequalities.