The European Union is “not fit for purpose” in the task of reducing poverty in Europe and Brexit risks exacerbating the problem, Prof Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special envoy on human rights has said after a two-month investigation. One in five people – more than 92.4 million or 21.1% of the EU population – still experiences poverty, defined as having an income below 60% of national median income. A total of 19.4 million children, representing 23.1%, live in poverty across the bloc.
He said the EU’s “constitutional framework” was driving a race to the bottom in corporation and income tax and salary levels.
A lack of harmonisation on those issues, coupled with the 1997 stability and growth pact that imposes ceilings of 3% a year in national budget deficits and 60% of GDP on public debt, were major constraints on progress, he said. The internal competition to cut taxes and wages as member states sought to attract investment risked being further fuelled by Brexit, said De Schutter, as the UK sought to find a competitive advantage over the 27 member states of the EU.
The EU does not currently have a target for reducing poverty within its 27 member states. The previous target of taking 20 million people out of poverty by 2020 was missed by 8.7m people.