Levekår og livsforhold i EU 2009


Commission staff working document: Social situation report 2009

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Arbeidsdokument lagt fram av Kommisjonen 3.2.2010

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BAKGRUNN (fra Kommisjonens arbeidsdokument, engelsk utgave)

This edition of the Social Situation Report has been drawn up in the midst of the worst recession the world has experienced since the 1930s. While there are signs that the recession is now bottoming out, its social consequences – which are the main focus of this report – will take months or even years to manifest themselves fully. They will depend on a number of factors. The main social impact comes from people losing their jobs and becoming unemployed. Unemployment has already started to rise — in some countries dramatically (see Employment in Europe Report) — but it is still far from reaching its peak.

The extent to which this rise in unemployment translates into major social problems will depend on who is worst hit, for how long they are excluded from the labour market and how effective are the social safety nets. It will also depend on how earnings and benefits are adjusted and how their real value is affected by the lower inflation resulting from the recession. This report indicates the broad groups most likely to be affected by the fall in employment and the extent to which unemployed people can rely on social benefit safety nets across the EU.

In the long term, the extent of the real social challenges will depend on how far unemployment rises and how fast it can be brought back down. One major risk would be a slow recovery caused by weak consumer demand (people have less access to borrowing and might, in any case, be reluctant to accumulate large debts again). It is also important that the social consequences of budget consolidations are closely monitored. The impact on individual households will depend on how well benefit systems protect them, notably beyond the first period of unemployment when social insurance benefits run out and they become entitled only to less generous means-tested support. All households, whether or not affected by unemployment, may be hit either by tax cuts (which will mean less government spending on education, child care, health and long-term care) or by higher taxes, social security contributions and user fees. The Social Protection Committee2 is constantly monitoring these social impacts of the recession and the policy responses in the Member States.

This report looks first at the findings of a recent survey on the social climate in the EU, showing how people across the European Union perceive the recession and the outlook for the year ahead. It then seeks to shed light on the possible social consequences of the current crisis by examining previous economic downturns, particularly the recession of the early 1990s. Finally, it focuses on housing, presenting results from a special EU-SILC module and analyzing some key housing data. After all, the financial crisis originated in the housing market and initially caused massive job losses in the construction industry.



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