Health and social problems are worse in more unequal societies
On the first day of the Progressive Economy Annual Forum, S&D Euro MPs, academics, policymakers and experts from around the world addressed the challenge of inequality and how much it affects people's well-being.
Opening the Forum, S&D Group president Hannes Swoboda underlined how important it is to provide visibility to the views and opinions of progressive academics and representatives of civil society, and to connect them with the views of policymakers.
“Confronted with the hegemony of neoliberal right-wing ideology, we want an alternative progressive policy – but based on facts”, he said.
Professor Kate Pickett of the University of York painted a striking picture of how much inequalities affect people's lives.
Among many examples, she explained:
“The prevalence of mental illness is higher in more unequal richer countries. In the US, it affects 26% of the population.”
She stressed the need “to move the issue of inequality to the top of the political agenda”.
S&D Euro MP Udo Bullmann who moderated this first debate declared:
“A more just and fairer society is not only better for its citizens but is also a permanent boost for a flourishing economy.”
Both Jean-Paul Fitoussi from the University of Rome and James K Galbraith from the University of Texas underlined that inequalities have deepened in developing and emerging countries. Growing inequalities are not the consequences of the financial crisis, they have helped triggered it.
They criticised the fact that the same policies were applied indiscriminately, making the situation even worse in many countries.
“We need a change in policy”, they stressed. Extending the system of welfare and social insurance in the eurozone could be one of the solutions to explore, argued James Galbraith.
In the afternoon, the Progressive Economy Forum moved onto academic sessions covering alternatives to austerity, inequality and the crisis, reforming European economic governance and rethinking economic policy, as part of its ongoing call for papers.
First EU JustJob index
New publications which will be debated at the event include the new edition of the Journal for a progressive economy focusing on inequality, and a study on a European JustJobs Index.
Both publications are available here.
The first-ever EU JustJobs Index was presented at the forum. The index shows which European Union countries rank highest in terms of employment opportunities, job security, equality of treatment and opportunity, rights at work, income security and other indicators addressing quality employment.
It is the first international measure of its kind and was launched in 2013 by the JustJobs Network and the Fafo Institute for applied international studies.
Fafo and the JustJobs Network were commissioned by Progressive Economy to develop a regional JustJobs Index for the European Union with the aim of initiating a discussion and attracting interest on policy issues related to jobs and the creation of quality jobs in a European context.
Tomorrow, the Forum will welcome Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prizewinner in economics, and Martin Schulz the progressive candidate-designate for the presidency of the European Commission, to present their vision for the future, as well as Finnish deputy-prime minister Jutta Urpilainen and German secretary of state for employment and social affairs Jörg Asmussen.
The main sessions of the conference, including the debate with Joseph Stiglitz and Martin Schulz, will be webstreamed live on the Progressive Economy website.
You can get involved in the debate 10:00-12:00 via Twitter using the hashtag #proecon14.
On Thursday 6 March, the co-chair of the Progressive Economy board, Jean-Paul Fitoussi will announce the winners of the call for papers launched in 2013 focusing on the following main topics of research: alternatives to austerity; inequality and the crisis; reforming European economic governance, and rethinking economic policy.
The Progressive Economy is a new initiative launched in 2012 with a major objective: to generate a truly public and informed debate on economic and social policy at European and national, as well as global, levels and actively promote progressive thinking in these areas at academic and at political levels. Progressive Economy is a long-term initiative with a strategic vision of its contribution to progressive thinking and action, not a one-off event.
Find out more about the Progressive Economy initiative here.