At European level, social and economic policies are currently ordered and organised around achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy - high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion (1). It is widely recognised, however, that social cohesion is declining or at least under new pressures as a consequence of the economic and employment crisis, but also due to longer-term trends including growing inequality, immigration and increasing cultural diversity (2). A new report on 'Social justice in the EU' from the Bertelsmann Stiftung shows that social disparities in the EU are increasing in relation to poverty, labour market access, health, equitable education as well as intergenerational justice (3). A t the same time, social cohesion is generally valued in and of itself, as it reflects solidarity and social harmony, while also being regarded as an important resource for economic success and quality of life.
In general terms, well-being has become established as a fundamental objective of EU policies; Article 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) states that the Union's aim is to promote 'the well-being of its peoples'. Likewise the European Sustainable Development Strategy of 2006 cites the well-being of present and future generations as its central objective. Europe 2020 aims to put people first to create 'more jobs and better lives'. It has adopted a number of targets that go beyond conventional measures of economic performance, with goals to reduce poverty and social exclusion, to promote education and employment.
Over the past decade there have been growing demands from politicians, the media and public opinion to develop better approaches to measure economic and social progress and to monitor well-being in a more comprehensive way (4). In particular, the European Commission's (2009) Communication on 'GDP and beyond' underlined the need for measurement of quality of life and well-being as outcome indicators, and highlighted the importance of more accurate reporting on the distributional aspects and corresponding inequalities. It concluded that "ultimately, national and EU policies will be judged on whether they are successful in delivering (social, economic and environmental) goals and improving the well-being of Europeans." (5).
This policy brief examines how significant social cohesion is for the well-being of people in Europe. It considers, in particular, how income inequalities are related to social cohesion and well-being. It is based upon existing reports (2,4) and specifically upon the analyses in a report prepared for the Bertelsmann Stiftung (6).