Liz Alderman / Feb. 14, 2019 / NY Times
Since the recession of the late 2000s, the middle class has shrunk in over two-thirds of the European Union, echoing a similar decline in the United States and reversing two decades of expansion. While middle-class households are more prevalent in Europe than in the United States — around 60 percent, compared with just over 50 percent in America — they face unprecedented levels of vulnerability.
For people in this group, whom economists define as earning between two-thirds and double their country’s median income, the risk of falling down the economic ladder is greater than their chances of moving up.
The hurdles to keeping their status, or recovering lost ground, are higher given post-recession labor dynamics. The loss of middle-income jobs, weakened social protections and skill mismatches have reduced economic mobility and widened income inequality. Automation and globalization are deepening the divides.
Young people face steeper hurdles. For the first time, a generation of European youths can’t envision living the middle-class lives of their parents. They face a dearth of stable jobs and a rise in temporary and part-time contracts that slice work into weeks, days and hours.
When used as intended — to offer experience — these contracts can lead to steady work and better incomes.
But companies and Europe’s public sector have mostly used them to dodge protections for permanent employees.
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