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Middle Class

The state and future of the European middle classes.


This dossier provides an overview of international trends that pose threats and present opportunities for the European middle classes. Although the focus is on the European context, to provide a good overview of the global trends that impact on this group, it is important to connect the knowledge of the European context with theory and research on middle-class development from all around the world. In the literature, there is an increasing interest in the rising middle classes in emerging countries. And much research has also focused on the squeezed middle class in the United States. But what exactly is happening in Europe is less clear. How are Europe’s middle classes developing differently than their counterparts in the United States and emerging countries? And what are the differences within Europe itself?

This dossier will seek to answer these questions by looking at the three main drivers behind the dynamics of the middle class: economic globalization, automation and social policies. Economic globalization (e.g. trade openness and financialization) and technological change (automation) are significant international forces that present opportunities for some but not for all groups in society.  Social policies on the other hand can help the middle class adapt to new circumstances and prevent them from falling back into poverty. In general, policies that affect the middle class can be classified as redistribution (tax credits, benefits, pension funds, social protection, cash transfers) or predistribution (through inclusive growth and systemic change).

Together these three drivers will impact on employment opportunities and inequality. As such, this dossier is a continuation of previous dossiers on Inequality and Employment, in which The Broker already identified main international trends that affect the creation of employment and quality jobs, and increase income inequality in most parts of the world, combined with the debate on equality of opportunities. This dossier goes further by focusing on trends affecting the middle classes, particularly in Europe.

Here you can find an introduction to all the articles in the dossier. We hope you enjoy reading them and invite you to share the contents with others, comment on the articles or contribute by submitting an expert opinion.

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