The EU was now further away from its agreed 2020 targets on reducing poverty and social exclusion than it was when the targets were set five years ago. Six million more people are in poverty than at the beginning of the EU 2020 Strategy and it is short of its target in cutting the numbers in poverty by 25 million. Poverty levels fell in 21 EU states in 2012 but the numbers of poor have still risen. The working poor, those who have a job but still live in poverty, represent one-third of working-age adults who are at risk of poverty in the EU.
Ireland is among the four worst EU countries for increased rates of poverty or social exclusion, according to a study looking at developments in all 28 member states. It joined Greece, Hungary and Cyprus in having the most deteriorated rates between 2008 and 2013, according to the study “Europe: A Union for the Powerless as well as the Powerful?”
The research claimed the EU had demonstrated a “profound failure of policy” to protect millions of powerless and vulnerable people. The report from Social Justice Ireland found an EU-wide failure to deal with poverty and social exclusion in the past five years.
Research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy, said there was no integrated EU strategy that “consistently and comprehensively promotes economic recovery while also protecting EU citizens especially those who are vulnerable and powerless”. She said it might lead to a healthy balance sheet “but the lack of social inclusion and social cohesion has hugely negative impacts on millions of people in the EU”.
Director of Social Justice Ireland Dr Seán Healy said that during the crisis years the EU focused on fiscal consolidation and economic recovery as well as on protecting the euro and the banks. “At the same time it has failed to address the social consequences of the austerity approach which is being used to resolve the problems caused by the crash.”