Changes in Socio-Demographic Situation and Social Convergence
The European Union Candidate Countries, including Estonia, lag behind the European Union (EU) level of economic and social development. By convergence we usually mean harmonisation of the level of incomes across countries. Convergence also means harmonisation of particular economic indicators, equalisation. Social convergence is discussed in the latter meaning. According to the economic theory of convergence, the economic development level of less developed countries should approach the level of more advanced countries with the same economic resources or fundamentals. This paper discusses convergence of social protection expenditure, analyses trends in the economic and socio-demographic situation and respective social policy measures that influence the convergence process in EU countries. Estimates of social protection expenditure in EU countries indicate faster development of countries with lower level of social protection in recent years. Many reforms accomplished there have helped to raise the social protection level in less developed countries. A comparison of social protection expenditure and evaluation of changes there should also characterise the social convergence process between EU countries. Analyses of social trends in EU countries enable to evaluate preconditions that would help the candidate countries, including Estonia, to achieve social convergence with accession to the EU.
convergence, socio-economic policy, social protection system, social protection expenditure, economic and demographic determinants, European Union
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