Among the many challenges facing the EU is income inequality. (I’ve added a page on the topic here.) The following are key points from it. Income inequality drives migration among the member states (and thus helps the single market to grow efficiently) but it can be a source of political instability. Since the big enlargement of 2004, there has been little change in income distribution in the EU as a whole. The top 1 per cent still draw about 10 per cent of the total income. The shares of the lower groups have hardly changed either.
Looking at individual countries, those that were above the average in 2009 were still above the average in 2017, while those below the average in 2009 were still below in 2017. However, it’s possible to have a low value and still improve. Latvia, Poland and Croatia are examples of this, as is Portugal.
In general, wealth inequality has increased in the majority of the countries over this period, but not enormously. The most improved country is Poland and the most dis-improved country is Hungary.
But there’s another way of looking at it that relates to the way that people mainly see themselves within Europe, as citizens of a particular member state. There is some progress in reducing income inequality between the member states. Adjusting for purchasing power, Luxembourg remains the highest-income country, and Bulgaria the lowest-income country, but the ratio between the two has fallen, and there has been a reduction, across all countries, in the variations between incomes. It’s important for the future of the EU that inequalities between countries are monitored and addressed, because otherwise existing tensions between northern and southern, eastern and western countries will be exacerbated. It’s also important that the progress made be highlighted. Inequality is now less, more or less, and the EU should make more of it.