Unequal Europe


How could regional inequalities be tackled in a sustainable way? What opportunities do urban areas have to prevent social exclusion? Would it be time to even out the differences in well-being and access to welfare?

These are among the driving research questions powering the Unequal Europe project, a European collaboration led by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, and based on indicators selected in collaboration with researchers from the Institut für Landes- und Stadtentwicklungsforschung.

The project has already led to the publication of analysis in Germany, Finland, Romania, and Italy. Work is currently underway also in Sweden and Estonia, and a European overview will be published in a dedicated Policy Study in October 2021.


#1 Unequal Germany. Socioeconomic Disparities Report 2019 Neither the strong economic growth nor the fact that more people in Germany are finding work these days have done anything to reduce the gulf that divides the country’s rich and poorer regions. Indeed, the gap between the dynamic and the disadvantaged regions has only increased. The federal state’s levelling of inequalities between the Länder no longer works. This study shows that socio-economic inequality in Germany has become further entrenched in recent years. What is more, while some cities are booming, whole regions are at risk of being left behind for the foreseeable future.
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#2 Unequal Finland: Regional socio-economic disparities in Finland On the outset and in international comparison, Finland has developed one of the wealthiest and most generous welfare states in the world, with low levels of income inequality and high social mobility. A deeper look reveals deepening regional disparities, leading to the observation that, in fact, there are four Finlands.
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#3 Unequal Romania: Regional socio-economic disparities in Romania In recent years Romania has been the fastest growing economy of the EU. Still, at the same time, the last decade has also been a period of ongoing emigration and increasing spatial disparities. The economic benefits of European integration were not distributed equally across the country, and despite increasing regional disparities, the issue was hardly prioritised by political decision-makers during the last three decades. The report identifies current spatial variations of strengths and weaknesses in light of future risks and challenges for the country, and calls for new national and European policies to address the issue.
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#Related An inegalitarian France The gilets jaunes (yellow or "hi viz" vests) protests in France have brought to light far-reaching regional grievances and socioeconomic disparities that run counter to the aspiration to equal living conditions for all. A closer look at these regional dis­parities shows a "fragmented" country, riven at all administrative levels by numer­ous faultlines. Despite – or perhaps even because – of the centralised redistribution policy an active state is no longer discernible for many people living in the regions.

#4 Unequal Italy: Regional socio-economic disparities in Italy Historically, Italy has been characterised by a marked divide between North and South, but there are profound differences, specific strengths and weaknesses, and untapped potential in both areas. The report identifies and analyses "four Italies" and "three Mezzogiornos" before proposing precise policy recommendations to remedy the country's socio-economic disparities.
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#5 Unequal Sweden: Regional socio-economic disparities in Sweden Internationally, Sweden is still associated with a growth model that secures a high level of social equality via a strong universal welfare state. However, this perception overlooks a distinct rise in inequalities over the past 30 years. Successive market-based reforms and structural change have created distinct regional socioeconomic disparities. This leads to the observation that there are four Swedens.
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