Poverty is rising in many EU Member States

After a moderate labour market recovery which lasted until the middle of 2011, European employment is down again in December 2011, according the statistics published by the Commission. In addition, there are rising social concerns across Europe. The Commission also reminds the results of a recent study which shows that on-going fiscal consolidation measures may aggravate further the situation of the most vulnerable.

The latest EU Employment and Social Situation Quarterly review released by the European Commission shows that although the employment in the European Union moderately recovered during the year to the second quarter of 2011 - in November 2011, the unemployment rate remained stable, it is again on a downward trend since the third quarter with a drop by 0.1%. Most groups are affected but especially hard hit are the young, the low-skilled and migrants. The number of underemployed part-time workers and of people available for work but not seeking it any more has also increased.

Poverty is also on the rise in many Member States, especially the peripheral ones. Recently published data for 2010 show signs of rising poverty in many Member States, especially in the Baltic States, Spain and Ireland. Some population subgroups are severely hit, even in Member States apparently less impacted overall. Those suffering the most obvious effects of the crisis are those who were already at greater risk before the crisis and with weaker links to the labour market, namely young adults, families with children and especially single parents.

With regard to the effects of fiscal consolidation measures, a recent analysis evaluating the likely distributional impacts of the austerity packages in six EU countries shows that careful design of the measures is crucial to avoid that the most vulnerable bear the brunt of austerity. The report shows that measures affecting the disposable income of households (e.g. increases in income tax, cuts in benefits or in public sector pay) are clearly regressive in Portugal and relatively neutral in Estonia and Spain. They are mildly progressive in the UK (not yet taking account of more regressive measures to be implemented in the coming years) and strongly progressive in Greece and Ireland. However, once measures to increase VAT are taken into account the impacts of austerity are more regressive.