Living standard  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The European social model is a common vision many European states have for a society that combines economic growth with high living standards and good working conditions. Historian Tony Judt has argued that the European social model "binds Europe together" in contrast to the 'American way of life'.

European states do not all use a single social model, but welfare states in Europe do share several broad characteristics. These generally include a commitment to full employment, social protections for all citizens, social inclusion, and democracy. Examples common among European countries include universal health care, free higher education, strong labor protections and regulations, and generous welfare programs in areas such as unemployment insurance, retirement pensions, and public housing. The Treaty of the European Community set out several social objectives: promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions ... proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion. Because different European states focus on different aspects of the model, it has been argued that there are four distinct social models in Europe – the Nordic, British, Mediterranean and the Continental.

The general outlines of a European social model emerged during the post-war boom. Tony Judt lists a number of causes: the abandonment of protectionism, the baby boom, cheap energy, and a desire to catch up with living standards enjoyed in the United States. The European social model also enjoyed a low degree of external competition as the Soviet bloc, China and India were not yet integrated into the global economy. In recent years, it has become common to question whether the European social model is sustainable in the face of low birthrates, globalisation, Europeanisation and an ageing population.

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