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Research project: What level of inequality can the EU tolerate?

Technology, globalisation, and migration are leading to greater inequalities within the European Union. The University of Agder wants to find out what impact this will have.

Migration is one of several factors behind growing inequality in Europe. Photo: Colourbox.com
Migration is one of several factors behind growing inequality in Europe. Photo: Colourbox.com

“This will be one of several projects that will help shape Europe’s future. Our results will form part of the factual basis on which major decisions in the EU will be made”, says Professor Hans Christian Garmann Johnsen at the School of Business and Law at UiA.

He heads the University of Agder’s part of the EU project ‘Growing Inequality’ (GI-NI). The aim of the project is to explore the impacts of technology, globalisation, and migration on Europe. This is the eighteenth project in the series, and previous projects have collected empirical data on the conditions in Europe.

The purpose of the GI-NI project is to map and analyse the situation in Europe, to enable the EU to implement effective measures and policies to halt the increasing inequality within the EU.

Recommendations to the EU

Bilde av Hans Christian Garmann Johnsen.

Professor Hans Christian Garmann Johnsen will lead UiA’s part of the GI-NI project. Photo: UiA

Now the work of interpreting the data begins, to be able to put forward good recommendations to the EU. UiA takes part in the data analysis, together with eight other European universities and research institutions which are responsible for different parts of the task.

“We are going to construct a new index for European countries, which ranks how well prepared they are for crises. This has never been done before, so it is exciting work. We will explore many different data, including schemes for continuing education and unemployment measures. There are individual indexes for each of these, but now we will see them together for the first time”, says Garmann Johnsen.

UiA’s part of the project will also analyse data on the European labour market, in order to be able to make recommendations on what employment guidelines should be implemented at what level: EU, country or region.

Unemployed due to technology?

The research article ‘The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?’, written by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, forms part of the GI-NI project background. In the article, they give a gloomy prediction, namely that 47% of all jobs are at risk for automation.

“We now see that Frey and Osborne’s expectations do not match reality, partly because countries are differently equipped for technological progress and because everything is affected by globalisation and migration. We want to use our empirical data to say something more substantial about the future”, says Garmann Johnsen. 

Inequality is a threat

“Brexit has helped demonstrate what can happen when differences become too great within the EU. Inequality can break the EU and is a greater threat than increasing or declining prosperity, for example. The question is what level of inequality we are willing to live with”, says Garmann Johnsen.

Working with him on the UiA team are Professor Jon P. Knudsen at the Department of Working Life and Innovation, Associate Professor Eirin Mølland at the Department of Economics and Finance, and Professors Romulo Pinheiro and Jarle Trondal from the Department of Political Science and Management.

“We strive to deliver the best analyses to the European Commission, which can make decisions based on our findings and recommendations. I hope this will contribute to knowledge-based policies to systematically reduce inequality in Europe over time”, says Jarle Trondal.

The project starts in April 2021 and will run for four years. UiA’s contribution comes towards the end of the project and concentrates on future scenarios, policy recommendations and integration of knowledge at various levels. GI-NI’s total budget is NOK 30 million, of which UiA’s part has been allocated NOK 3 million.