Skip to main content
EU Science Hub
News announcement1 June 2021

New online tool to monitor inequality and help build a fairer Europe

New framework provides useful insights to monitor, map, track and compare inequalities across the EU.

The framework spans 10 key life domains, from knowledge, health and material wellbeing to culture and environmental conditions.
The framework spans 10 key life domains, from knowledge, health and material wellbeing to culture and environmental conditions.
© EU 2021

Today, the JRC launches the EU Multidimensional Inequality Monitoring Framework: an interactive tool to monitor, map, track and compare inequalities across the EU.

The tool was produced as part of an exploratory research project to develop a structured indicator framework for monitoring and analysing inequalities in the EU.

Over 90 per cent of the 346 national-level indicators on the tool have been calculated and visualised for the first time, offering new insights on patterns of inequalities, their impact on life outcomes and the progress being made to build fairer societies in the EU.

The framework spans 10 key life domains, from knowledge, health and material wellbeing to culture and environmental conditions. Each of these can be explored in further detail and mapped across the EU to compare trends and outcomes across countries.

With country profiles, inequality maps and rankings, the insights can help policy analysts in the Commission, other EU institutions, national and regional authorities to identify priorities and design policy initiatives to tackle inequality.

“Our motto is that good policies start with good measurement”, explains Marcos Dominguez-Torreiro, a team leader in the JRC’s unit specialised in Monitoring, Indicators and Impact Evaluation that developed the framework. “This pilot project will contribute to enriching existing frameworks for monitoring and analysing inequalities in the EU”. The project can contribute to further strengthening the agreed EU monitoring framework on inequality (in particular the Social Scoreboard), complementing the work of the Indicators Subgroup of the Social Protection Committee.

The tool uses a special double-sorting algorithm so that outcomes across several criteria can be selected and then compared to rank overall inequality performance across countries, showing where countries struggle — or find it easier — to make progress in their efforts to tackle those inequalities.

For example, the tool can be used to see in which countries there is a higher or lower probability that the children of low-educated parents will go to university. In terms of health outcomes, the impact of factors such as gender, where someone lives (rural or urban), their age and their profession can be explored and compared across countries.

These outcomes can then be compared against things like inequalities in household financial security - but also against non-monetary factors such as social attitudes to gender, or political behaviour and participation.

“Inequality is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon: it spans a wide range of monetary and non-monetary dimensions of well-being, from education and health to income and culture or social interactions,” explains Marcos. “Our research shows that debates about ‘social justice’ and ‘fairness’ must go beyond discussions about poverty and social exclusion and try to include explicit concerns about multidimensional inequalities as much as possible.”

While the JRC tool provides a wide range of indicators that can offer possible clues on drivers of inequalities, not all the indicators used ensure the same level of reliability, comparability and timeliness. The use and interpretation of the tool should therefore be made with caution and take into consideration such limitations.

Inequality trends and future scope of the research

The online tool is launched together with a report analysing the data, which sheds light on:

  • the methodology behind the indicators used in the framework;
  • the links between inequality levels and individual perceptions of happiness and life satisfaction;
  • the use of microdata to analyse intergenerational mobility and the impact of personal circumstances at birth on future life outcomes.

The report shows that inequality levels tend to have a significant negative impact on individual subjective perceptions of happiness and life satisfaction.

In general, the ability of children to move up the ‘social ladder’ relative to their parents has improved over time. However, the observed patterns and trends of intergenerational mobility in educational attainment differ across countries and between the regions within each country.

In most countries, the impact of social background and personal circumstances at birth on future life outcomes is decreasing over time in the economic and education domains, while increasing with regards to health outcomes. From a gender perspective, the analysis shows that women tend to experience higher inequality of opportunity than men in objective health outcomes, such as chronic diseases and limitations on daily activities.

When developing the framework, the experts noted that inequality patterns and levels differ not only across, but also within, countries. They analysed administrative data that was available for two EU countries - Sweden and the Netherlands - and found significant differences in intergenerational mobility and inequality of opportunity patterns at the municipal level.

“There are research opportunities that we have not yet fully explored in this pilot project,” Marcos says. “Looking ahead, we would like to further analyse intra-generational mobility - the ability and obstacles for individuals to move up or down the social ladder in their own lifetimes. We are also exploring the possibility to access and assess administrative data from other EU countries to perform the same inequality analysis at municipal level that we have done for the Netherlands and Sweden.”

The EU Multidimensional Inequality Monitoring Framework report and data visualisation platform is being launched at an online event today.

Background

In 2019, the European Parliament requested the JRC to provide independent scientific advice on monitoring multidimensional inequalities in the EU. The EU Multidimensional Inequality Monitoring Framework is one outcome of that exploratory research project.

One aim of the framework is to feed into the Commission’s tools to monitor progress towards a more cohesive and social Europe, such as the Social Scoreboard in the context of the European Semester, which also helps to monitor the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Europe is home to the most equal societies in the world, the highest standards in working conditions, and broad social protection. The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2017 at the Gothenburg Summit. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles which represent the beacon guiding us towards a strong social Europe that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunity in the 21st century.

More needs to be done so that the 20 principles of the Pillar help us build fairer and better-functioning labour markets as well as adequate welfare systems for the benefit of all Europeans. With the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, the Commission has set out concrete initiatives to achieve this. All partners endorsed the Action Plan at the Social Summit in Porto on 7-8 May, acknowledging that delivering on the pillar is a joint effort by EU institutions, national, regional and local authorities, social partners and civil society.

The EU is also committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set out in 2015 as part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in all policies. The SDGs are a key policy reference point for the Commission as regards the objective of promoting the different dimensions of wellbeing and reducing inequalities.

Related links

Launch event

Explore the EU Multidimensional Inequality Monitoring Framework

JRC Science for Policy report: Monitoring multidimensional inequalities in the European Union

JRC composite indicators website

Related Content

EU Multidimensional Inequality Monitoring Framework

JRC Science for Policy report: Monitoring multidimensional inequalities in the European Union

Details

Publication date
1 June 2021