In the Mothers Movement we've been looking to the progressive social policies of Europe as a light to move towards. But now, with European countries feeling the pinch of the GFC (four countries- PIGS - have been bailed out) and tightening their belts, cost cutting means an end to these socially progressive policies.
In the UK these are the programs being cut from April 1st: educational support for teenagers, music therapy for those with severe learning disabilities, fewer probation workers, less support for young parents, refugee advice centres, domestic violence centres, HIV prevention schemes, help for women with PND, lollipop people at school crossings, work programs for the blind, debt advice services, funding for the arts, day centres for street drinkers, and fire stations are shutting. Still to come are changes to the welfare system, the NHS, housing benefits and police services. Libraries, nursing homes and respite centres are waiting hear how they will fare. As funding winds down youth clubs will close, charities will shut up shop, after school activities for school children will end and day care centres for the elderly will close. Cutting community programs for early intervention mean serious problems later. But, The Gaurdian Weekly reports, if you are well, in secure employment, have already been to university, and have no care responsibilities, you probably won't notice the cuts. Only the vulnerable will suffer - the poorest 10%. The people who will feel the pinch mostly are women and children and the socially isolated.
In France there were protests last year about raising the retirement age to 62. They can't afford to have so many people on a pension. Taxes are high at 45%, (only Belgium and Hungary have higher), the welfare system is still in place and the 35 hour working week remains, however, prices are high, unemployment is high and infrastructure is running down. Although France has officially avoided recession, its economy is slowly going downhill. Some are suggesting two main measures to help - more women in the workplace (losing the tax incentives to stay home with children), and reforming the welfare system.
I've been reading The Guardian Weekly lately - it is easy to carry and I like reading other perspectives (Australian newspapers are not what they could be). A growing trend I've noticed in European countries is the formalisation of anti-Muslim sentiment. There is Tea Party like trend in Europe too.
How will it all resolve? To quote TGW 'Britain is not alone in facing a hard choice between cuts, growth, debt and democracy.'
No mention about cuts to aid for developing nations,but that must be part of the plan.