The Working Poor in Europe

The Working Poor in Europe

Employment, Poverty and Globalization

Edited by Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann

For a long time in-work poverty was not associated with European welfare states. Recently, the topic has gained relevance as welfare state retrenchment and international competition in globalized economies has put increasing pressures on individuals and families. This book provides explanations as to why in-work poverty is high in certain countries and low in others.

Introduction: The Working Poor in Europe

Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann

Subjects: development studies, development studies, economics and finance, labour economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, labour policy


Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann This book is about Europeans who work and are poor. Many people think that the term ‘working poor’ should be an oxymoron, because nobody who works hard should be poor. Many people also think it is a phenomenon typical for the period of industrialization, as described in Friedrich Engels’s seminal work on the ‘working class in England’ (Engels, 1999) or Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’s study on the ‘wage-earning classes in provincial towns’ (Rowntree, 2003). Others see it mainly as a problem in the USA, where the situation of the working poor has been a political issue for decades. Just recently, popular books by US journalists like Barbara Ehrenreich (2001) or David K. Shipler (2005) have provided a vivid picture of life at the ‘bottom of the working world’ in the US economy. In the European context, in-work poverty gained interest only in the late 1990s. The European Councils of Lisbon, Nice and Stockholm highlighted the importance of promoting participation in employment as a means of preventing and alleviating poverty and social exclusion. But recent reports from the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) showed that 7 per cent of the employed population in the EU-15 had an income below the national poverty line (Bardone and Guio, 2005). As a consequence, the European Council stresses in its recent European employment guidelines (EC, 2005) the need to reduce the number of working poor. But why is in-work poverty back on the European political agenda? Much of the present...