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Belgium ranks above average in EU social justice index

Europe is recovering not only economically, but also in the domain of social justice, according to the EU Social Justice Index 2017 published the Bertelsmann Foundation yesterday. Belgium’s score places it 13th among the countries of the EU. Its performance has remained stable since 2008, the first assessment year.

Although far from all EU member states have regained their pre-crisis levels, the most recent index data give cause for hope that the worst is over not just in economic terms, but also from a social perspective, says the report.

At the top of this year’s index are the northern European states of Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Rounding out the top group are the Czech Republic, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, while Greece, despite again posting slight gains this year, remains clearly in last place.

The Social Justice Index comprises 30 quantitative and eight qualitative indicators, each associated with one of the six dimensions of social justice: poverty prevention, equitable education, labor market access, social cohesion and non-discrimination, health and intergovernmental justice.

Belgium continues to rank highest on the health dimension. According to the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI), Belgian health policy has succeeded in achieving short wait times as well as a high range and wide reach of health services, ranking the country 2nd in the EU (surpassed in 2016 for the first time by the Netherlands).

However, Belgium places among the bottom third on several measures of intergenerational justice related to environmental protection and public debt.

“Belgium’s environmental policy is…split between the federal government and the three regions, which makes it largely unmanageable. (…) In practice, this means that environmental policy in Belgium remains largely uncoordinated, local and inefficient.”

Regarding fiscal sustainability, the sizable public debt, 105.5% of GDP in 2016 (rank: 24), remains a concern. “One ticking time bomb continues to be the implicit pension debt related to entitlements that will be owed to current workers in 10 to 20 years.

The report on Belgium concludes that both the extreme level of public debt and lack of consequential climate change mitigation policies threaten to saddle future generations with the excesses incurred today.

M.Apelblat
The Brussels Times