Europe sees unprecedented Social Polarization. “Poverty is Returning to Europe”
By Julie Hyland
September 28, 2012
The giant consumer goods company Unilever has announced that it has begun employing its “third-world” marketing strategy in Europe. This is eloquent testimony to the growing social inequality now besetting the continent.
Jan Zijderveld, head of European operations, stated bluntly that the decision had been made because “poverty is returning to Europe”.
The group would begin producing the smaller, cheaper packages that it sells in Africa and Asia for the European market. “In Indonesia, we sell individual packs of shampoo [for] two to three cents and still make decent money,” Zijderveld said. “We know how to do that, but in Europe we have forgotten in the years before the crisis.”
Unilever has already adopted the strategy in Greece and Spain, two countries targeted for draconian austerity by the troika—the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The troika’s austerity policies have only compounded the economic crisis in these countries, causing mass suffering. Youth unemployment is 53.8 percent and 52.9 percent in Greece and Spain, respectively.
But mass hardship is by no means confined to southern Europe. Two recent reports on conditions in Britain and Germany reveal sharp social polarisation in Europe’s “core”.
Who Gains from Growth?, drawn up by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Institute for Economic Research (IER), forecasts that living standards for Britain’s low- and middle-income households will fall sharply over the next eight years, even if the country manages to emerge from its current double-dip recession.