EU welfare systems and the challenges of poverty and inequality

Study 10-10-2022

This study examines how contemporary welfare state policies address the issues of inequality and poverty both between and within EU Member States. It combines quantitative and qualitative analysis to show the strong links between inequality and poverty, not only in statistical terms, but also in terms of wealth distribution, intergenerational mobility and labour market dynamics. Welfare states are discussed in a multidimensional way, covering traditional welfare state policies on social protection, labour markets and health as well as policies on education and on culture. These last two are also public policies that have the potential to mitigate social risk and marginalisation – a key aim of welfare state policies. The study points to the links between welfare state policies and economic strategies, and investigates the direct and indirect impact of EU policies. It shows convergence in some areas, such as decreasing poverty levels and more pre-distributive policies across Member States, but it also shows persisting inequalities and a great deal of path-dependency – the continuing impact of historical traditions and institutions. The study concludes with four scenarios for the future of EU welfare states, casting light on the wide range of possible policy options both at national and at EU level.