The “cradle-to-grave” social welfare programmess that have attempted to protect Europe’s workers for decades may be shrivelling, if not disappearing completely – done in by a global financial bust.
Following revelations earlier this year that Greece’s balance books were in complete disarray – with public debt now pushing toward 120 per cent of gross domestic product – and that the Greeks would need to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and other countries in the European Union, many nations are scrambling to find fixes that will avoid a banking and currency collapse.
The United Kingdom has led the way with serious proposed cuts to the country’s treasured social programmes.
Britain’s austerity measures, championed by conservative prime minister David Cameron, include penalties for turning down jobs, strict new medical assessments aimed at weeding out fraudulent claims, and cuts to the $32 billion the country is giving out annually in housing subsidies.
Elsewhere, the Irish have proposed $20 billion in cuts and higher taxes, the French are raising the retirement age and the Greeks will raise their sales tax and cut civil service salaries, despite an unemployment rate near 31 per cent.
Al Jazeera has been exploring the effects of Europe’s debt crisis, the measures levied in response, and how European austerity compares to more drastic poverty elsewhere in the world.