The middle-class is being squeezed, says OECD – The EU must prioritise the implementation of the Pillar for Social Rights

“Governments must act to help middle-class households who are struggling to maintain their economic weight and lifestyles as their stagnating incomes fail to keep up with the rising cost of housing and education”. It’s the latest report released by the OECD “Under pressure: the squeezed middle class”[1]. The issue is affecting young generations in particular, who are now finding it more and more difficult to successfully pursue social mobility and make it to the middle class. And it is once again a matter of intergenerational injustice – while 70% of baby boomers were part of middle-income households in their twenties, only 60% of millennials are today, reports the OECD.

The latest report by the OECD tells us that governments are not working to make sure that everybody can live with dignity in the wealthiest countries on Earth. This would mean making sure that everyone has decent housing, good health care, good education and a good retirement. As our friends in the International Union of Tenants say, indeed, “housing constitutes a fundamental right for all to participate in our society. Secure, affordable and healthy housing is a precondition to access education, employment, and genuine social security.”[2]

Instead, the report sheds light on the fact that the economic influence of the middle class has dropped sharply. Across the OECD area, except for a few countries, middle incomes are barely higher today than they were ten years ago, increasing by just 0.3% per year, a third less than the average income of the richest 10%.

[1] See http://www.oecd.org/social/under-pressure-the-squeezed-middle-class-689afed1-en.htm

[2] See https://www.iut.nu/eu/

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Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa overseeing the Organisation’s work on Inclusive Growth, commented on the main findings of the report, saying “our analysis delivers a bleak picture and a call for action. The middle class is at the core of a cohesive, thriving society. We need to address their concerns regarding living costs, fairness and uncertainty.”[1] If they are to follow up seriously on Ms Ramos words, the EU and its Member States should place the implementation of the Pillar for Social Rights at the top of the agenda of the next mandate of the EU institutions. Instead, right-wing governments distract people by using scapegoats such as migrants. Tackling inequalities, lifting more people out of poverty and boosting social mobility schemes are the solutions we need.  To take such action in the EU requires the full implementation of the Pillar of Social Rights. Only by focusing on the founding values of the EU and translating these into common actions for solving region-wide problems can we take step further towards social justice.


[1] See https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/governments-must-act-to-help-struggling-middle-class.htm

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