Income inequalities and employment patterns in Europe before and after the Great Recession

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Publication Date 2017
ISBN 978-92-897-1573-7
EC TJ-02-17-166-EN-N
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This report addresses growing concerns about income inequalities in academic and policy debates by offering a comprehensive study of income inequalities during the years of the Great Recession starting in 2008–2009 (income data relating to 2004–2013). It has the twofold objective of adopting an EU-wide perspective and providing an updated picture of inequalities across different sources of income and in most Member States.

The results show that EU-wide income inequality declined notably prior to 2008, driven by a strong process of income convergence between European countries – but the Great Recession broke this trend and pushed inequalities upwards both for the EU as a whole and across most countries. While previous studies have pointed to widening wage differentials as the main driver behind the long-term trend towards growing household disposable income inequalities across many European countries, this report identifies unemployment and its associated decline in labour income as the main reason behind the inequality surges occurring in recent years. Real income levels have declined and the middle classes have been squeezed from the onset of the crisis across most European countries. The role played by the family pooling of income in reducing inequalities and the impact of European welfare policies in cushioning the effect of economic turbulences on the distribution of income are also explored.

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