Faith in European economy takes hit as crisis drags on, study finds

Europeans’ faith in the fairness of their economic system has taken a hit as the eurozone experiences its fifth year of recession, a new poll published Monday by the Washington-based Pew Research Center has found.

The majority (a median of 77 percent) of Europeans surveyed by the think-tank believe that the current economic system generally favors the wealthy. This includes an overwhelming 95 percent of the Greeks, 89 percent of the Spanish and 86 percent of the Italians, who have been hit the hardest by austerity measures. Even 72 percent of Germans, who have fared better than other Europeans, say the system works in favor of the wealthy to the detriment of the poor, according to Pew.

Data from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, cited in the survey suggests that the top 20 percent of Greek earners commanded 5.6 times as much of Greek national income as did people living in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. In 2011, the Greek inequality ratio was 6.4. Over the same period, there was a similar rise in inequality in Italy, from 5.2 to 6.0, and a slightly smaller jump in Spain, from 6.9 to 7.5, Pew said.

The report goes on to say that 85 percent of Europeans surveyed agree that the gap between the rich and the poor has increased in the past five years, a sentiment shared by nine in 10 Spanish, Germans, Italians and Greeks.