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Fascinating discussion. I have two points to add.

Firstly, I agree that the poor/rich divide is unmistakably widening in Europe. Any numbers can be presented as desired, but everywhere I see the trend that income of the top branch has increased while income of workers has increased with virtually nill - and this during economic recession in a number of EU countries. That's a wrong trend for working moral. No one is going to like to work knowing that the CEOs decide about their fate and get an increased paycheck for it! I think this is clearly an issue to address - but I hesitate whether Brussels should.

What irks me, too, is the absence of European charity foundations, a trend that is growing for many American multi-millionaires (The Kellog Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation, etc etc.) Although a multitude of these are founded by company chairmen, an European equivalent is sorrily lacking. Because Europe a has more social safety net doesn't plead European companies free.

Secondly, the working poor are a growing phenomenon in (western) Europe - or at least in The Netherlands. There was a leading article in NRC Handelsblad (one of the major national newspapers of the Netherlands) a couple of weeks ago describing this problem. I think it relates back again to growing costs versus stagnant income/minimum wages.

On the other hand, regional government are already undertaking initiatives to support this group financially to prevent them spiralling down even further. Examples range from financing tuition fees for young children, replacing broken down washing machines at the cost of the city council, reduction in tax etc. That is a good development and a pragmatic solution, though I feel they work around the fundamental problem: the stagnancy in lower income is not addressed.

by Nomad on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 07:31:23 AM EST
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