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Social inequality has been increasing in Europe and it also impacts the environment

Picture of the Gilets Jaunes Demonstration 01 December 2018 in Paris.

Picture of the Gilets Jaunes Demonstration 01 December 2018 in Paris.

In recent decades, income inequality have been increasing in almost all European countries. The average income of the richest 10% of the population today is about nine times as high as the average income of the poorest 10%. Twenty-five years ago, it was seven times as high. While overall prosperity has increased in recent decades, it seems that growth has not been fairly redistributed, as only a minority has been benefiting from the past growth while poverty in Europe has been progressing with the bottom 50% of the population sharing significantly less of the national income.

Inequalities increasing in Europe 360 Agency Berlin

Recent studies have been proving that greater inequality fuels discontent but also right-wing populism. This study shows that the inclination to support these parties is greater among individuals who live in a region where income inequality has been increasing.

Recently the reaction against increasing inequality instigated a demand for a stronger national identity. We clearly noticed this tendency in the UK by recently leaving the EU.

It is not just liberal democracy that is at risk when inequality increases. Since the global rise in temperature demands difficult changes, from the different states but also and mainly from the population , the transition to a low-carbon economy requires that costs are shared, and that economic prosperity is more equally divided.

Source: Garbinti, Goupille-Lebret and Piketty (2017). Note: distribution of pre-tax national income among equal-split adults in France. The unit is the adult individual (20 and over; the income of a married couple is split in two).


Source: Garbinti, Goupille-Lebret and Piketty (2017). Note: distribution of pre-tax national income among equal-split adults in France. The unit is the adult individual (20 and over; the income of a married couple is split in two).

France is a very good illustration of poor income redistribution, over 20% of the national GDP growth has been increasing the revenues to the richest 1% (more than the share of the entire lower half of the income distribution), in such context a proposed increase in the price of fuel has been seen fairly as punitive.

If the transition to a low-carbon society is to gain general acceptance, citizens must feel that the measures are fair. A fair transition means that the largest emitters should also bear a considerably greater part of the costs.

Initial Article written by Karl-Petter Thowardsson President, The Swedish Trade Union Confederation https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/income-inequality-is-bad-climate-change-action/