Preliminary results of a European Commission-funded study, the SIREN project, presented today at a workshop in Brussels, show that growing insecurity and inequality in Europeans’ work life is contributing to the electoral success of right-wing populist and extremist parties. The study covers eight European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland) and is based on more than 300 interviews and a telephone survey of 5,800 employed persons.
According to the survey, European workers were 50% more likely to experience a decrease in job security during the last 5 years than to experience improved security (27% vs 18%). Reported causes of frustration among employees are deteriorating work conditions, precarious employment and low income, but also rising stress levels and continual competition. Older workers are the most affected by negative changes in their working patterns caused by higher employment insecurity and worsening conditions in the workplace. Socio-economic change thus creates a class of “modernisation losers” who prove to be relatively more attracted by xenophobia and right-wing extremism. But the study also found that some who actually benefit from rapid although painful changes in the market place, “modernisation winners”, also pay a high price and develop an aggressively competitive political stance. The research findings highlight the need to realise the Lisbon agenda in its entirety and to strengthen Europe’s economic and social policies to help address the roots of far-right extremism.
“Right-wing populism and xenophobia threaten the very foundations of Europe, whose richness lies in diversity and tolerance,” said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. “But a simple condemnation of racist or intolerant political movements is not enough: we have to understand the origins of the malaise. EU research demonstrates that when faced with low working standards, job insecurity and an overall deterioration of quality of life, some people are attracted by far-right sirens. Creating more and better jobs, realising the Lisbon agenda in its entirety is vital”.
Pedro Ramos | European Commission
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