The Chamber of Labor and the Federation of Trade Unions have warned more than once about the growing social inequality in Austria. In a European comparison, Austria is not so bad, on the contrary. Income is distributed as unequally in this country as in Poland and Denmark – and therefore very unequally. These three countries have a top ranking. Income inequality is still higher in all other EU countries. This is the result of the latest figures from Eurostat.
The Gini coefficient is usually used to determine how unevenly income is distributed within a society. Its value is between 0 (absolute equality) and 1 (maximum inequality). Just a few decimal places make a big difference. In the latest Eurostat data for 2020, Bulgaria occupies a top position (0.40), followed by Lithuania (0.35). Spain (0.32) and Greece (0.31) fare somewhat better. France now has a placement with 0.29, the Netherlands are slightly better (0.28).
In Denmark, Poland and Austria the Gini coefficient is 0.27 and is therefore the lowest. Compared to 2019, the value of Denmark and Austria has not changed. However, Germany experienced a sharp increase, from 0.29 to 0.35 in 2020. This means that incomes in Germany would actually be distributed particularly unequally in an EU comparison. Austria’s neighboring country is third from last. That caused astonishment.
The distribution expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Markus Grabka, emphasizes to the daily newspaper “Welt”: There would be worlds between a Gini coefficient of 0.29 and a value of 0.34: “Germany would then be a different country.” If the social gap in southern European countries such as Greece, Spain, Cyprus or Portugal was always significantly greater than in Germany, this would no longer be the case.
The main reason is apparently a change in the survey method. The data determined is based on the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) survey. Germany’s Federal Statistical Office has changed the collection method for SILC. SILC is based on household surveys. So far, participation has been voluntary. But since 2020 it has been “attached as a separate chapter to the microcensus survey and is therefore no longer voluntary,” writes the “Welt”. The SILC data is based on a significantly larger sample, which now “represents the German population more representatively”, as the Federal Statistical Office explains.
“In plain language: the official statisticians consider the picture of a much more divided society to be the more realistic picture of Germany.” Die Welt fears that this could give the left a boost to populist redistribution wishes.