by Arup Banerji, Regional Director for the European Union countries, The World Bank Group
and Christian Bodewig, Program Leader for Inclusive Growth, The World Bank Group
Since its foundation more than 60 years ago, the European Union (EU) has become the modern world’s greatest “convergence machine,” propelling poorer, and newer, member states to become high-income economies, and delivering to its citizens some of the highest living standards and lowest levels of income inequality in the world. Today, however, Europeans are increasingly realizing that convergence is by no means automatic. Since the 1990s, population inequality has increased in many parts of the EU as low-income Europeans fall back on the labor market. Also the productivity gap between the southern and northern member states has widened since the early 2000s. The EU is growing, but Europeans "are not growing together". But why? Growing United argues that technological change, by revolutionizing product and labor markets, is slowing down the old convergence machine: technology offers ever-richer opportunities for well-skilled workers and frontier firms, while low-skilled workers and less productive firms risk falling behind. As a result, countries and regions that provide fewer opportunities for people to build relevant skills and a less supportive environment for firms to thrive are losing ground. This calls for upgrading Europe’s convergence machine, to seize the benefits of technological change for all Europeans. Growing United argues that the convergence machine, version 2.0, should focus on the convergence of opportunities for people and firms across the Union. It should support the capabilities of people (skills) and firms (innovation), and provide a level playing field for people and firms through “flexicure” labor markets and an enabling business environment.
Panel discussion with:
Arup Banerji, Regional Director for the European Union countries for the World Bank Group. Until January 2016, he was the Senior Director and Head of the Social Protection and Labor Global Practice at the World Bank Group, and concurrently the Senior Director for the Jobs Group, overseeing the World Bank’s operations, strategy and knowledge work on employment and labor markets, social safety nets, and social insurance/pensions issues. He is a research fellow at the Institute for Labour Economics (IZA) in Bonn, Germany, and an invited member of three of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils—on Youth Unemployment, on Inclusive Growth and on India.
Marcel Fratzscher, President of DIW Berlin. He is Professor of Macroeconomics and Finance at Humboldt-University Berlin, and Chair of the German government expert committee on "Strenghtening investment in Germany". Moreover, he is member of the advisory board of the German development, non-profit Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and member of the supervisory board of the Hertie School of Governance.
Mathilde Richter, Spokeswoman of DIW Berlin
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