Europe in crisis and Asia emerging: a look at social protection

Contribution to the plenary debate on social protection and essential services, Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), Vientiane, 16-19 October 2012.


Who could have imagined ten years ago the paradoxical situation we are living in today! In 2002 the first signs of the multiple crisis the EU is living in today were visible, especially at the social level. But institutionally, there was hope that the new constitutional treaty would bring solutions for old problems. At the economic level, everything was going fine with a new common currency and reasonable growth figures. Socially, the situation was more difficult with some neoliberal reforms, a Lisbon strategy aimed at ‘activating’ unemployed people and liberalizing public services.

Today, the EU is living in a severe economic and financial crisis, a political and an institutional crisis. Democracy is receding, unemployment is rising and the legitimacy of the EU is seriously being eroded.

In Asia, in 2002, some countries were getting out of the economic and financial crisis of 1997-98. China was on its way to become a predominant economic and geopolitical partner, the four ‘tigers’ had been joined by younger dragons like Indonesia, Thailand and others. There was a lot of hope, and this hope came true, economically and politically. Socially it did not.

To-day, there are more reasons to be optimistic about Asia than there are about Europe.

The paradoxical thing is, despite all the existing social problems in the EU, that Western Europe still has the best social protection system there is and there ever was. And while we know we cannot go back to the old system of the ‘trente glorieuses’, we also know much work is to be done to preserve an efficient and comprehensive social protection system. As much work will have to be done to introduce an efficient social protection system in Asia.

All this obliges me, as a European, to be very modest. I surely can refer to the enormous achievements of our social protection in Europe, but I cannot refer to the current reforms as a model to be followed.

In this contribution, I would like to take a brief look at the social situation in Europe and in Asia, I would like to analyse the current trends in European thinking on social protection and see what is on offer for development cooperation. I would like to end with some recommendations for social movements in Europe and in this region of the world.

 The social situation in Asia

Asia is a relatively poor though fast growing region. Its inequality is rising, its poverty is declining rapidly though it has the highest number of poor people in the world.

Extreme poverty in Asia (< 1,25 US$/day – in % of total pop)

1981 1990 2002 2008
East-Asia & Pacific 77,2 56,2 27,6 14,3
China 84 60,2 28,4 13,1
South Asia 61,1 53,8 44,3 36,0
 Total Developing world 62,2 43,1 30,8 22,4
(excl China) 40,5 37,2 31,5 25,2

Extreme poverty in Asia (<1,25 US$/day – in number of people)

1981 1990 2002 2008
East-Asia & Pacific 1096,5 926,4 523,1 284,4
China 835,1 683,2 363,1 173,0
South Asia 568,4 617,3 640,5 570,9
 Total Developing world 1937,8 1908,6 1639,3 1289,0
(excl China) 1102,8 1225,5 1276,2 1116,0

Source: Sen, S. & Ravallion, M., More Relatively-Poor People in a Less Absolutely-Poor World, World Bank.

Measured at the 2 US$ a day line, East Asia, China and South Asia had respectively 33,2, 29,8 and 70,9 % of poor people in 2008.

Measured in number of people, Asia counts 1028,3 million extremely poor people, out of a total for developing countries of 1289 million (2008). Measured at the 2 US$ a day line, Asia had 2178,4 million poor people, out of a total for developing countries of 2471,4 million[1].

Developing Asia had a growth rate of 7,2 % in 20011 and of 9,1 % in 2010[2].

However, it is not growth ‘with equity’: inequality is on the rise. Income inequality widened in 11 of the 28 economies with comparable date, including China, India and Indonesia. In China, the Gini coefficient worsened from 32 in the early 1990s to 43 in the late 2000s. In the whole of Asia, the Gini coefficient went from 39 to 46 in the same period[3].

Source: ADB, op.cit., p. xxiii.

Source: ESCAP, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2012, p. 45.

As for expenditures on social protection, they are very low:

Source: ADB, op. cit.,p.79.

Total expenditures for social protection in Asia is limited to 5,32 % of GDP, of which 1,68 % goes to health care. This is the same level as Africa and half of what is spent on social protection in Latin America. Countries with the highest percentage are Japan (18 %), Taiwan (14,86 %), Mongolia (12,29 %), Malaysia (6,45%), Korea (6,5 %), Sri Lanka (6,09 %),China (5,97 %). At the lower end we find Laos (1,34 %), Singapore (1,54 %), Pakistan (1,91 %)and Bangladesh (2,00 %)[4].

Source: ESCAP, The Promise of Protection, 2012, p. 71

 The social situation in the European Union

Statistically, the European reality is far better than the one in Asia. Subjectively speaking however, the situation is far worse, since social protection is slowly being dismantled, disposable incomes are declining, unemployment and inequality are on the rise. While the situation is a lot better in the EU than it is in Asia, Asians can be full of hope and aspire for a better future, while Europeans are in distress seeing their welfare declining.

Economically, the EU is in stagnation or in recession, mainly due to a decline in domestic demand[5].

Source: EU Employment and Social Situation, Social Europe, Quarterly Review, June 2012, p. 10.

Unemployment in the Eurozone was 10,8 % in February 2012 and 10,2 % in the EU27. It was lowest in Austria (4,2 %), Netherlands (4,9 %) and Germany (5,7 %). It was highest in Spain (23,6 %) and Greece (21,0 %)[6].

In some countries, like Austria, Germany and Poland, employment continues to grow. But in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Bulgaria, and recently also in France, one notes a dramatic continued fall in employment[7]. In the last 3 years, four million jobs were lost, mainly in manufacturing. This means that men were hit harder than women by the rising unemployment. There is little hope of any significant progress soon[8].

Source: Eurostat, News Release 52/2012, 2 April 2012.

Youth unemployment is 22,4 % in the EU, an unprecedented level, with peaks of around or above 50 % in countries like Spain and Greece[9]. The number of long term unemployed rose by 72 % over the past three years[10].

In 2010 as in 2009, around 23 % of the European population were considered to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion[11]:

Source: Eurostat, Statistics in Focus, September 2012.

Social expenditures also varies significantly among the EU member states, ranging from less than 25 % of GDP in most Member States to around 35 % in the Nordic Member States, together with France and Belgium. Foe the EU as a whole, the average is 31 % of GDP. It is important to note that in the EU cash benefits dominate, with 55 % of total social expenditure.

In the past five years, social protection expenditures has increased relative to GDP, though this is also linked to the stagnation or limited growth of GDP. In the period going from 2009 to 2012, social protection benefits in kind fell relative to GDP in most Member States, while cash benefits decreased in nearly half of the Member States. It should be clear that during this period, needs of people increased significantly, mainly due to unemployment. Consequently, the non-decline of social protection expenditure can hide a serious deficit in protection and help. In all of Europe, the first victims are precarious workers and migrants, with little or no rights. To-day, in the same way as it happened in developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s, NGOs and faith-based organizations are filling the gaps.

Source: European Commission,2012, op. cit., p. 53.

Source: Eurostat, Statistics in Focus, 9/2012, p. 3.

The table above clearly shows the importance of social protection for reducing the risk of poverty[12].

 A changing social paradigm

Right from the start of neoliberal policies, back in the 1980s, social expenditures have been one of the main targets of policy makers. Even if, in the past, the World Bank and the IMF could rightly say that their conditionalities never included cuts in social expenditures, it is clear that for governments these are the most easy targets, far more accessible than military expenditures or taxes on the more wealthy. And cutting subsidies for social services and goods also is an indirect way to hit the more vulnerable part of society.

In the European Union to-day, the European Council and the Commission do directly target social protection. This happens in a number of ways and did not start with the current crisis.

Indeed, the ‘neoliberal turn’ in the EU was introduced with the Treaty of Maastricht and the implementation of competition policies and internal market law to public services and other economic activities. The liberalization policies, the directive on the posting of workers, the rules governing free establishment and public procurement, all contributed to a deregulation of protected labour markets[13].

More recently, the recommendations of the ‘Euro Plus Pact’, in which Heads of State and Government openly admit they are talking about national competences, also indicate that protective labour rights and (capitalized) pension systems are seen as a serious impediment for the new economic thinking. In the framework of the new ‘economic governance’, the European Commission can directly interfere in the national budget procedures and does often recommend changes to the social model of countries[14].

There are good arguments to agree with what is stated in the youngest UNCTAD report: “ … policymakers in developed countries, particularly in Europe, now appear to be pinning their hopes once again on “structural reforms”. However, those reforms are all too often coded language for labour market liberalization including wage cuts, a weakening of collective bargaining and greater wage differentiation across sectors and firms” [15].

This is the reasoning which was also behind the ‘poverty reduction policies’ of the World Bank, right from the 1990s. In all its conceptual documents on poverty from the 1990s, the World Bank made very clear that developing countries should not develop social protection/social security programmes, since these were mainly for formal workers with ‘vested interests’. The poor however, were those ‘who really needed’ help and this was seen as a ‘common interest’. Consequently, poverty reduction policies were not seen as a complement nor as an modest start of social protection, but as a substitute for existing social protection systems[16]. They were perfectly compatible with the Washington Consensus.

Typically, Commission chairman Barroso adopted this same terminology in his ‘State of the Union’ address to the European Parliament on September 12 2012: “… tackling vested interests and privileges. Reforming the labour market to balance security with flexibility … And ensuring the sustainability of social systems… we need to reform our economies and modernise our social protection systems…But an effective social protection system that helps those in need is not an obstacle to prosperity. It is indeed an indispensable element of it. Indeed, it is precisely those European countries with the most effective social protection systems and with the most developed social partnerships, that are among the most successful and competitive economies in the world.” [17]

Now, the European Union is not the World Bank, and the weakened though still strong labour movements which exist in Western Europe will never allow the dismantlement of labour rights and the shift from a broad social assistance to purely labour market oriented poverty policies. Because that is indeed the new paradigm which is slowly emerging at the global and at the European level.

In the name of competitiveness and the reduction of public debt, labour costs have to be lowered. This can be done by putting back the retirement age, by limiting collective bargaining, by easing ‘hiring and firing’ rules, by limiting unemployment allowances, by excluding some categories of people from benefits (such as migrants) and by limiting some social expenditures (in education and health care). On the positive side there are the ‘activation’ measures including training for the unemployed in order to enhance the ‘employability’ of people.

The main changes in social protection systems however concern the objective of the protection systems itself. Whereas in its recommendations of 1992 the Commission and the Council still see the ‘guaranteeing of incomes, access to health care and economic and social integration’ as the main objective of social protection[18], in its ‘Strategy for the modernisation of social protection’[19] of 1999, this objective becomes ‘making work pay’. In its Social Agenda of 2000 the objective of social protection is said to be twofold: the Agenda has to strengthen the role of social policies as a factor of competitiveness and should in parallel allow for pursuing the objectives of the protection of individuals, reduction of inequalities and promoting social cohesion[20].

From there, the economic role of social protection has only been strengthened. The concepts of the ‘Lisbon Strategy’ of 2000 speak of ‘employability’, poor and vulnerable people should be ‘actively included’, pensioners should be helped with ‘active ageing’. The objective of social protection is thus no longer to protect people from the vagaries of the market-place, but on the contrary to encourage them to enter the market, more particularly the labour market. The wording of the EU2020 strategy – a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth[21] – shows the European Union wants to give priority to growth, macro-economic stability and austerity policies. As the Social Observatory Europe stated: ‘There is a risk that social protection and social inclusion are being reduced to social inclusion alone, reduced to fighting poverty’[22]. If it happens, the EU will be totally in line with global policies as promoted by the World Bank since 1990. Social protection will then be little more than poverty reduction and be entirely at the service of economic growth and productivity[23]. It is expected that the promised programme for a ‘Social Investment Pact’ will confirm this tendency.

This conclusion calls for two important caveats.

First, the European Union has no competences for social protection policies. Even the anti-poverty programmes of the 1970s and 1980s have been blocked by the European Court of Justice because of a lack of legal basis. The Treaty of Rome had a chapter on ‘Social policies’ in order to promote and improve living and working conditions of workers, but the harmonization of social security always was excluded from its competences. The legal arguments used for talking about pensions, health care, labour rights and the modernization of social protection relate to the completion of the single market and competitiveness, objectives which are formally stated in all treaties.

Poverty is not referred to in any European Treaty, but only in the policy documents of the Lisbon Strategy (2000) and EU 2020. The Treaties only allow the European Union to fight ‘social exclusion’, which is, in the current ideological framework, ‘exclusion from the labour market’.

In 1989 a ‘Social Charter’ was adopted by 11 of the 12 Member States and refused by Thatcher’s UK. It could thus never be integrated in any Treaty. The same goes for the Charter of Fundamental Rights adopted in 2000 and slightly amended some years later – with very weak social rights – which could not be integrated in the draft constitutional treaty, nor in the Treaty of Lisbon[24].

A second remark concerns the European institutions. Given the limited competences in social matters of the European Union, it would certainly be wrong to blame only the EU for the dismantlement of existing welfare states. The EU, after all, is nothing else but the addition of 27 governments, taking decisions in the European Council. There is no doubt that the current European Commission plays an important role in the promotion and implementation of neoliberal policies, nominated as it has been by a majority of neoliberal governments and confirmed by a European Parliament where the left and centre-left political forces are a minority. National Heads of State and Governments all too often use the European Union not only as a scapegoat, but also as the ideal tool for common decisions that would be very difficult to take at the national level. The EU becoming more and more an intergovernmental union, the responsibility of our national governments in the development of new economic and social thinking and of new policies should not be underestimated.

Nevertheless, whoever is responsible, the consequences remain the same and become more serious every day:

First of all, there are economic consequences of the crisis for Asia:

Source: ESCAP, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, p. 31.

Secondly, and back to the social situation in the EU itself, social distress is enormous and there are more and more protests and conflicts. Apart from the financial distress of a growing number of households, psychological distress is even worse, especially in the ‘troika’ countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal. The number of suicides is rising and the social fabric is at risk.

Thirdly, the legitimacy of the EU is seriously being eroded. Total negative opinions on the EU have doubled from 15 % in 2006 to 28 % in 2012. Total positive opinions in the same period changed from 50 % to 31 %. Support for the Euro also slowly declined, from 59 to 52 %[25]. This is a serious challenge and shows that it will be very difficult to get popular support if political leaders want to complete the Economic and Monetary Union with a democratic Political Union. Democracy is at risk, and it remains to be seen what the participation rate for the next European elections in 2014 will be.

Fourthly, rightwing populist parties are making a comeback. From the openly fascist ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece to ’Jobbik’ in Hungary, extreme rightwing parties are present in almost all Member States riding on the tide of fear and uncertainty, looking for easy scapegoats, from the European Union to migrants and islam. This is a very dangerous trend that should not be under-estimated.

Finally, nationalism and the refusal to show solidarity with ‘others’ in times of crisis also leads to tensions in several Member States. It is the case in Spain, with Catalonia, in Belgium with its old North-South divide, and with the UK and Scotland.

 The emergence of social protection

Global poverty reduction policies have failed. The two parallel strategies that were put into place around 2000 – the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers of WB/IMF (PRSPs) – and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the UN did not achieve what they promised. The PRSPs were more concerned with macro-economic and political reforms than with poverty and/or poor people. The MDGs may be met by 2015 at the global level, but this will only be thanks to the sharp poverty reductions in China and India. In Latin America poverty declines rather slowly, in Subsaharan Africa the number of extremely poor people continues to rise and it has almost doubled from 1990 to 2005[26]. It should be obvious that countries with high rates of poverty and extreme poverty do not need ‘poverty reduction policies’ but economic and social development, that is policies aimed at developing productive capacities for the domestic market while promoting distribution of income and local purchasing power.

In fact, the global poverty reduction policies are totally compatible with neoliberal policies and were nothing more than a new label on ‘structural adjustment programmes’.

Awareness of this failure and awareness of the growing and unsustainable inequalities in times of crisis that allow the wealthy to constantly amass new wealth[27], international organisations have started a new discourse on ‘social protection’.

The World Bank itself introduced a new concept of ‘social protection’ as soon as 2000[28]. It is considered to be ‘risk management’ with a role for families, markets and the State. It is based on the neoliberal principle that risks cannot be avoided – they are like natural facts, ‘acts of God’ – but only mitigated and ‘coped with’. Later, inspired by the success of cash transfers in Brazil and Mexico, it also accepted the income dimension of poverty to be taken into account. Finally, it slowly abandoned its focus on poverty reduction and in its most recent reports, it does not talk of poverty anymore[29]. Its next report will be on labour markets, and it remains to be seen whether poverty will be one of its topics.

Several UN organizations have seen the need for real alternatives to ‘poverty reduction’ since after the adoption of the MDGs. UNDESA (UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs), UNRISD (UN Research Institute for Social Development), ILO (International Labour Organization) all point to the need for social protection and slowly evolved to the demand for transformative universal social protection[30].

In June, the ILO has adopted a recommendation for a ‘social protection floor’ to be coupled to its campaign for the extension of social security coverage[31].

The G20 leaders and the Ministers for labour and employment of ASEM countries have mentioned the need for social protection in their most recent declarations. The ‘leaders Declaration’ of the G20 Mexico meeting in June 2012, has a specific chapter on ‘Employment and social protection’. G20 leaders ‘recognize the importance of establishing nationally determined social protection floors’.[32] The ASEM ministers stated in 2010 the ‘growing consciousness of the benefits of social protection as a measure to protect people from becoming trapped in debilitating poverty, to empower them to seize opportunities, to help workers to adjust to changes and to deal with unemployment and thus support productivity’[33] .

This looks as an important achievement and a way out of what can be called ‘debilitating’ poverty reduction policies. But we now have to analyze what this ‘social protection’ means and whether it does go indeed beyond ‘poverty reduction’.

A first analysis indicates that these new ideas are indeed a significant step forwards from ‘policies for the needy’ and could allow for decent social protection. However, even if they all stress that social security is a human right, the attention for economic objectives is predominant. It means that their implementation will require serious monitoring from social movements[34].

 The European Union, development cooperation and social protection

The European Commission has equally published a new communication on ‘ Social Protection in Development Cooperation’[35].

It refers to the ‘Agenda for Change’[36] which calls for a ‘more comprehensive approach to human development, supporting increased access to quality health and education services and enhanced social protection in support of inclusive growth’[37]. The persistence of poverty is attributed to discrimination, not to policies. In other words, here as well as in other documents, social protection has an economic objective in the first place. The reference to human rights only comes at page 3.

Social protection is defined as policies and actions that “enhance the capacity of all people, but notably poor and vulnerable groups, to escape from poverty, or avoid falling into poverty, and better manage risks and shocks, and aim at providing a higher level of social security through income security and access to essential services (in particular health and education) throughout active and inactive periods and periods of needs throughout the life-cycle’[38]. “Social protection reduces inequality”[39].

“The goal of EU development cooperation in supporting social protection is to improve equity and efficiency in provision, while supporting social inclusion and cohesion, as the essential underpinnings of inclusive, sustainable growth and poverty reduction.’[40] Social protection should ultimately be based on internal rather than international wealth redistribution’[41]. Social protection systems should aim ‘to achieve equal and universal access … throughout people’s lives, with particular attention to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people, such as children and persons with disabilities’[42]. As in the EU Development report[43], the reference to universality thus remains ambiguous.

Particularly interesting is the fact that the European Commission wants to ‘support transformative social protection’. These approaches tend ‘to include areas such as equity, empowerment and economic, social and cultural rights, rather than confining the scope of social protection to targeted income and consumption transfers’[44]. In other words, it seems as if social protection will remain a targeted poverty reduction, and that it becomes ‘transformative’ as soon as it tackles indeed social and economic rights in order to become social protection in its traditional meaning…

It goes without saying that this document offers a huge potential for cooperation on social protection, but that the text also contains enough ambiguities and gaps (nothing on the ‘scope’ of social protection, e.g.) as to require close monitoring. But for social movements working on social protection, it can be a big help as it refers to human rights, to universalism and to fighting inequalities, and even to ‘transformative’ policies.

 Social demands

Allow me to end with some comments I was able to give in Hanoi already[45].

It should be clear that social demands are in the very first place rooted in the needs of people. If people are hungry, the demand will be for food and food production. If people have food but no doctors or schools, their demand will concern health care and education. It is difficult to judge these demands from the outside, because local situations will determine the demands.

An element to take into account when making social demands is the feasibility of them. Social movements have to decide whether they limit their demands to what they think is feasible for governments or whether they put forward their utopian vision for the future, knowing they may not get satisfaction immediately but setting the future agenda.

When deciding on what to demand, it is good to know that the framework in which demands are put forward are almost always already decided on by governments and international organisations. From the moment ‘poverty’ was put on the agenda, only demands to fight poverty were considered legitimate and one might say that the whole poverty discourse was precisely intended to frame ‘the order of discourse’[46], to decide on what can be said and cannot be said on poverty, on what is considered ‘truth’ and what is not ‘truth’ about poverty. This ‘order of discourse’ is extremely important for social movements and NGOs because it will give the framework for their demands and projects if they want them to be considered legitimate.

An analysis of the international and national discourses is therefore extremely useful to know what the given framework is and what can be expected. It is the elites who define what is legitimate and what they are ready to concede. They are the ones who shape the demands of the people and decide on how to interpret the demands. The only way they can be convinced to change course is a threat of disruption and of social disorder.

Social movements with social demands should know that the agenda to-day is ready to concede social protection that hardly goes beyond poverty reduction and has a purely economic objective. Even if the fight for social movements to achieve this will be hard, one can say in fact it has already been given. This means the struggle that will have to be fought is for something that governments are ready to concede.

All demands going further will be rejected today but may help to set the agenda for to-morrow and may contribute to mobilizations for a better, for another world. The feasibility framework of to-day certainly does not exclude a utopian demand and actions for systemic change.

It is for social movements to decide on their strategy and to find out what has already been given and if and how far they want to go beyond this.

This being said, an international agenda for social protection can take into account some principles which lay at the heart of the old welfare states in Europe, such as citizenship, de-commodification, universalism and ‘organic solidarity’, that is solidarity beyond the immediate community, the role of the State.

Apart from these ‘old’ principles, new needs should be taken into account for the future: the need for fighting inequalities, to defend labour rights and environmental rights.

Finally, I would like to point to three important points which should guide all future-oriented social protection projects.

The first point concerns the already mentioned objective of social protection. Social protection is closely linked to human rights, in their entirety and indivisibility. However, if we really want a broad social protection, offering economic and social security to people, it should also include collective rights and the new solidarity rights which already exist or are in the making, such as the right to development, the right to a clean environment, etc. Social protection should be able to protect individual and collective lives and should be conceptualized as a protection of human society and of social life[47]. It should go beyond the immediate material needs of people and protect individual and collective life in its immaterial dimensions.

Secondly, in order to do so, social protection should be transformative indeed. To me, this means it It can contribute not only to the emancipation of individuals and of society, but also to changes in the economic system (de-commodification), in the political system through participative governance, etc. Even if social protection by itself will not lead to systemic change, the transformative potential of social protection is important, though it is up to social movements to decide what they want to promote or not.

Finally, and most importantly, a transformative universal social protection can usefully be promoted in the framework of the Common Good of Humanity[48], in order to strengthen its transformative potential and contribute to coherent public policies. All people, at all times and wherever they live, independent of their political regime, need protection. Rightwing forces will prefer to offer the protection of police and of the military, the protection of closed borders and often of xenophobia. Leftwing forces will prefer to offer people social and economic security which can also be a major element to promote peace and stability. Therefore, a new coherent framework, as the one the ‘Common Good of Humanity’ is offering, with a new thinking on nature and its relationship to humankind, on economics, on democracy and on intercultural relationships can be most useful to develop a broad social protection system.

 Conclusion: a common agenda?

Poverty is not the problem of poor people and social protection should go beyond the protection of individuals. It is a matter for the whole of society and it is closely linked to democracy, labour and the environment. Poverty cannot be eradicated in a context which constantly creates more poverty. It is crucial to stop the impoverishment processes.

Social protection should not be totally subordinated to economic policies and not be at the service of markets. In its ideal form, it should allow for fighting inequality and preventing poverty. Economic and social security are at the heart of democracy and give full meaning to citizenship, as status and as practice. Social protection can protect individual and collective rights, respond to material and immaterial needs and it can be a programme for preserving individual and social life. It can be part of a programme for the Common Good of Humanity and contribute to systemic change.

In Western Europe, welfare states are being dismantled. In Asia, a strong movement demanding social protection is emerging. If both were able to find each other and work together, an interesting alliance in favour of transformative and universal social protection benefiting all our societies could come about.

At a moment when the social movements and the trade unions in Western Europe are somewhat weakened, but still have in mind the strong tradition of social protection based on human rights, I do not know who will be able to benefit most of such an alliance. The Asian movements who are developing welfare states or the European movements who have to defend their past achievements while re-inventing new welfare states?

I think it is worth trying out. To me it is clear that at any rate we need a new development model, able to take into account social and ecological needs and able to give globalization a new and positive meaning.

It is social movements themselves who have to decide where and how far they want to go, and how transformative and cooperative they want to be in order to achieve social justice.

Francine Mestrum

Notes

[1] Sen, S. & Ravallion, M., More Relatively Poor People in a less absolutely poor world? World Bank, PRWP 6114, July 2012

[2] Asian Development Bank (ADB), Outlook 2012. Confronting Rising Inequality in Asia, ADB, 2012, p. xxii.

[3] ADB, op.cit.p. XIX.

[4] ILO, Social Security Report 2010, Geneva, ILO, p. 258.

[5] European Commission, EU Employment and Social Situation, Quarterly Review, June 2012, p. 7.

[6] Eurostat, News Release 2/4/2012.

[7] European Commission, 2012, op. cit., p. 13.

[8] European Commission, 2012, op. cit., p. 5.

[9] European Commission, 2012, op. cit.

[10] European Commission, 2012, op. cit., p. 15.

[11] These numbers cannot be compared to the World Bank statistics: are considered in the EU being ‘at risk of poverty’ the population living below the relative poverty threshold of 60 % of the median income, in a situation of severe material deprivation or living in a household with a very low work intensity’. Since 2010, one is also considered to be ‘at risk of poverty’ if one lives in a situation of severe material deprivation or in a household with a very low work intensity. Eurostat, Statistics in Focus, 9/2012.

[12] Eurostat 9/2012 p. 3

[13] The arrests of the Court of Justice in the cases ‘Laval’, ‘Viking’, Rüffert’ and ‘Luxemburg’ were clear manifestations of economic freedoms predominating social rights. With the demise of ‘Monti II’, this problem has not been solved yet.

[14] Degryse, C. and Pochet, P., “Worrying trends in the new European governance” in Natali, D., and Vanhercke, B., Social Developments in the European Union 2011, Brussels, OSE & ETUI, 2012, p. 95.

[15] UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2012, Geneva, UNCTAD, 2012, p. IV.

[16] For a more detailed analysis of the new ‘poverty paradigm’: Mestrum, Mondialisaion et Pauvreté. De l’utilité de la pauvreté dans le nouvel ordre mondial, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002, and http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=10&Itemid=13

[17] Barroso, J-M, State of the Union 2012,, p. 5-6, http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/12/596

[18] Council Recommendations 92/441/EEC and 92/442/EEC, 24 June and 27 July 1992

[19]European Commission, COM(1999)347.

[20] European Social Agenda, adopted by the European Council in Nice, 7-9 December 2000.

[21]European Commission COM(2010)2020 3 March 2010 and Council Conclusions 17 June 2010.

[22] Vanhercke, B., ‘Is the social dimension of EU2020 an axymoron?’ in Degryse, C. and Natali, D., Social developments in the European Union 2010, Brussels, OSE and ETUI, 2011.

[23] The ‘social investment’ proposals the Commission will publish in December 2012 support this trend – see also http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=188:francine-mestrum&catid=5:analysis&Itemid=6

[24] Charter of fundamental rights: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2010:083:0389:0403:EN:PDF

[25] Standard Eurobarometer 77, May 2012, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb77/eb77_first_en.pdf

[26] Chen, S. and Ravallion, M., The Developing World is Poorer than we thought, but no less Successful in the Fight against Poverty, PRWP 4703, August 2008, World Bank.

[27] UNICEF, Global Inequalities: Beyond the Bottom Billion, April 2011.

[28] World Bank, World Development Report 2000/2001. Attacking Poverty, Washington, The World Bank, 2000.

[29] See World Development Reports 2011 and 2012, as well as UNDP’s Human Development Report of 2011.

[30] Some examples: UNRISD, Combating Poverty and Inequality, Geneva, 2010; UNDESA, Re-thinking Poverty, http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/rwss/docs/2010/fullreport.pdf; United Nations, World Economic and Social Survey 2010, New York, United Nations.

[31] For an analysis of the social protection floor: http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=301:social-protection-floor-beyond-poverty-reduction-&catid=10:research&Itemid=13

[32] G20 Leaders Declaration, Los Cabos, Mexico, 18-19 June 2012.

[33] Leiden Declaration of ASEM Ministers of Labour and Employment, 13-14/12/2010.

[34] For a first answer to that question, see my contribution to the Mekong Subregional Meeting in Hanoi in August 2012, http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=317:mekong-region-universal-social-protection-and-essential-services&catid=10:research&Itemid=13

[35] CCE, Social Protection in European Union Development Cooperation, COM (2012) 446 final, 20 August 2012.

[36] European Commission, Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change, COM(2011)637final, 13 October 2011.

[37] European Commission, Social Protection in Development Cooperation, COM(2012)446final, 20 August 2012, first paragraph.

[38] Id, p. 3.

[39] Id, p. 4.

[40] id.p. 7.

[41] Id., p. 7.

[42] Id. p. 7.

[43] European Commission, Social Protection for Inclusive Development, European Development Report 2010, Brussels, 2011.

[44]European Commission, Social Protection in Development Cooperation, op. cit., p. 9.

[45] See http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=317:mekong-region-universal-social-protection-and-essential-services&catid=10:research&Itemid=13

[46] Foucault, M., L’ordre du discours, Paris, Gallimard, 1971; Fox Piven, F., Poor People’s Movements. Why they succeed, why they fail, New York, Pantheon Books, 1977.

[47] Mestrum, F., On the social dimension of the climate justice agenda, http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=278:on-the-social-dimension-of-the-climate-justice-agenda&catid=5:analysis&Itemid=6

[48] See http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/campaign/index.php/news/220-world-forum-for-alternatives