31 October 2012, 18:42

The decline of Europe's middle class

The decline of Europe's middle class
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The European debt crisis could not only make the poor feel even more miserable, it may also affect the middle class which makes up the basis of western society.

The ruling elites could also experience quite unpleasant consequences due to the crisis. In the long run, Europe’s system of civil values could be damaged. The middle class could cease to exist as such.

The World Bank says middle class people usually have higher education, earn at least 2,700 euros per month, own real estate and bank accounts. Spain is a telling example here. When the crisis just broke out, more than 50% of Spaniards said they belonged to the middle class. Latest polls have revealed that the Spanish middle class now smaller. Salary cuts, higher taxes and loans are forcing more and more people out of the middle class. Some 60% of Spanish families are affected by unemployment and a lack of income.

Tough austerity measures which are being actively implemented in the eurozone's south are applied all across the EU though with different intensity, Mr. Vasily Koltashov, the head of the Centre for Economic Studies at the Institute of Globalization and Social Trends, told the VoR…

"This policy could result in the disappearance of the middle class which once used to be the basis of democracy in Europe and even triggered social-democratic changes in the region, ensuring a rise in living standards in the 1950-1970s. In view of this we can now speak about the decline of European liberal democracy as middle class people are turning into the poor. Tax policy and social cuts affect people's well-being."

From time to time national governments adopt declarations and optimistic forecasts. The French government has promised an economic growth in 2013, while the country’s middle class fears that the situation will get even worse. Negative economic trends have come to the European North from Greece or Spain and are spreading very fast, says Vasily Koltashov. In Germany, which is believed to have no economic difficulties, 25% of the population have the so-called ‘mini jobs’ and earn less than 400 euros per month. These are people who failed to find a job and are offered this salary. Traditionally the prosperous European North is no longer that great, the expert says. The decline can be seen everywhere, people are getting less money and do not feel secure any longer.

Mass protests against austerity policies in Greece, Spain, Italy, France and even in Great Britain are staged by middle class people.

Nearly a century and a half ago the founder of the social-economic theory, Karl Marx, said that the bourgeoisie should rely on the middle class. Nowadays many analysts say that the ruling European elites may have to deal with its once conservative and reliable middle class social layer breaking up into radical far-right and far-left parties.

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