Actualities of ‘welfare society’

June 8, 2023

Recently, Euronews, citing the data released by Eurostat, reported that there has been a hike in inflation rate in the euro-zone in April.

If we look into the situation in each country, it was 6.9% in France, 7.6% in Germany, and 8.8% in Italy. Among the countries of the euro-zone, the inflation rate of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia reached a peak of 13.2%, 13.3% and 15% respectively.

The news continued to say that, although the European Central Bank (ECB) has striven to decrease the inflation rate to below 2%, inter alia, urging the countries in the euro-zone to enforce a policy of retrenchment from last year, the situation is still in the doldrums.

This has caused an angry outcry not only from the countries in the euro-zone, but also from other European countries.

A high-ranking official of the Riksbank of Sweden, which has seen inflation rates soaring as high as 11.7% in January, said that there is a need to pursue stricter monetary policy in order to overcome the current inflation crisis.

The Swedish finance minister also noted that the government is now faced with the most important task to curb the ever-increasing inflation rate in the face of the continuously worsening economic situation.

Soaring inflation rate is leading to an unprecedented price hike.

In the UK, the overall price of food and non-alcoholic drinks rose by 19.1% in March which is the highest record since August 1997.

In March, the Swedish “Matpriskollen” announced its findings of price investigation on over 44 000 food items. According to them, the overall prices of food in February increased by 2.5% over the previous month and 17.8% over last year. The prices of baby food rose by 0.8%, a new high since 2015.

Meanwhile, the Belgian VRT reported that in January, the domestic prices of fish, bread, edible milk, dairy products and eggs increased by 15%, 18.3%, 28.2%, 24.6% and 34.3% respectively.

Such rise in prices inevitably spawns crimes committed to eke out a living.

France is seeing a dramatic increase in theft amongst the old, the young, and students. There is no stop in stealing food to satisfy immediate hunger pangs rather than cosmetics or clothing.

What is more surprising is the shift in public view on crimes with an increasing number of people saying that such theft is understandable if they really have no money and not enough to eat.

Such changes in the people’s perception are bringing about social chaos and disorder.

Recently, Romania’s trade unions in the financial sector staged a demonstration calling for an increase in wages and improvement in working conditions.

The head of the national trade union confederation warned that unless the government takes substantial measures to increase wages, the doctors and nurses across the country would also stop their medical activities and take part in the protest.

In May, several Swiss trade unions reportedly made public that they would stage strikes and protests, revealing that the wage is not on a par with the price of commodities and service which increased by 2.6% this year because the companies only pursued their own interests by sacrificing their employees.

These are not all.

According to the Czech internet newspaper “Novinky”, the French 24TV, AFP, and other major media outlets, thousands of people gathered at the central square of Prague in March and staged a demonstration holding the slogan “Czechs fighting against poverty” in protest against the government that turns a blind eye to the residents’ hardships caused by the price hike.

In February in France, tens of thousands of masses of all strata turned up in a demonstration against the authorities’ reform of the pension system. In the UK, too, where soaring inflation rates have worsened the people’s living conditions, nearly half a million people including university lecturers and staff, and transport and public service workers staged a strike.

European civil organizations express their anger that more and more people are suffering economic distress unable to make ends meet owing to the unprecedented inflation and price hike while commenting that the responsibility lies in the government that turns a deaf ear to the people’s voices calling for improvement of living conditions.

These are the actualities of the “welfare society”.

Ryom Il Jun, researcher at the Korea-Europe Association

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