Monitoring convergence in the European Union

03 August 2018

The European Union is committed to economic, social and territorial cohesion, balanced economic growth and upward economic convergence. Convergence trends between Member States have been achieved over the last decades in both the economic and social dimensions. The crisis halted these trends and since 2008 stalling or diverging patterns marked the performance of the European Union Member States. 

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Diverging performances among Member States and increasing inequalities within Member States warrant common concern for various reasons. First, because they contradict the expectation that deepening European integration leads to growing cohesion at national and pan-European level. Secondly, because they may spread the feeling of social injustice and unfairness among citizens, fuelling anti-European sentiment and undermining the European project.

In order to implement the right initiatives, and to assess their effectiveness in achieving the objective of upward convergence, policymakers require evidence on diverging trends and dynamics both within and between Member States. It is important to know if these trends exist and whether or not they signal a general worsening of living and working conditions, and whether the distance between groups of Member States or regions is increasing and some groups are moving in different directions. 

Foundation Forum 2017

Foundation Forum is Eurofound's flagship event which took place on 14–15 November 2017 at Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland. Discussions among the 200 high-level participants from Europe and beyond focused on the various perspectives of convergence in Europe and its link with the European Pillar of Social Rights. Considering the economic and social dimensions as two sides of the same coin, the main focus was on upward convergence in living and working conditions, including employment.

See the Forum presentations, background papers and programme 

Upward economic and social convergence is seen as a common objective of Economic and Monetary Union and of the European Union as a whole. In order to embed the social element at the heart of its policy action, the Commission formally proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights in November 2017. As one of the Commission’s current policy priorities, it ‘serves as a compass for the renewed process of convergence across Europe’. 

Eurofound's work

Focusing on convergence of outcomes and performances of Member States and regions, Eurofound monitors convergence among Member States in the following research areas: socioeconomic factors, employment, working conditions and living conditions.  

The socioeconomic area will include the investigation of real convergence, that is GDP per capita and other macroeconomic variables, as well as access to a broad set of services and to social protection.

Convergence in employment will be analysed based mainly on the historical development of employment participation through the use of Eurostat data.

The exploration of convergence in working conditions will rely on the concept of job quality measured through the European Working Conditions Survey and other statistical sources.  

The investigation of living conditions will include objective and subjective indicators, including data drawn from the European Quality of Life Survey, and will cover quality of society, living conditions and general well-being.

The analysis of convergence will also consider various time horizons, from short to long-term trends and, wherever relevant and feasible, the analysis will be broken down by gender and age group in order to capture different trends within the population.

The research activity is organised along three main strands. First, it monitors the latest converging and diverging trends and performances among and within Member States in the research areas above. Then, taking an overarching approach, the research activity aims at understanding the drivers of these trends. This will include the analysis of institutional, macro and micro-level characteristics. Finally, the research will produce evidence to feed the debate regarding initiatives and options to foster economic and social convergence at the European level. 

Eurofound is exploring the possibility to combine indicators and create summary indices, drawing on the experience of other international organisations. The analyses, building on previous work, will consider clustering countries or regions to understand variation between them.

Ongoing work

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