Letter: UK is sweatshop of Europe

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The Independent Online
UK is sweatshop of Europe

Sir: The European Commission's Cohesion Report painted a devastating picture of the UK's economy ("EU says Britons fall into poverty faster", 7 November). The report's poverty figures are already out of date.

More recent figures, newly available to the Commission, indicate that as many as 25 per cent of British households live under the poverty line, lifting the UK to equal first in the EU poverty league alongside Portugal.

However, your report failed to highlight the fact that while UK growth has been employment-intensive, other countries have had a faster growth rate. In the UK today workers work longer hours for lower pay and they do so less productively than their European counterparts - a further indication that the UK is the sweatshop of Europe.

The Conservative government's privatisation programme and its insistence on pushing forward its deregulation agenda at every turn has increased the disparities between both regions and social groups.

The report confirms what many of us have known for some time - that social cohesion is breaking down in the UK - and cites the UK as an example of a dual economy. It singles out several of the UK's old industrial regions as examples of zero or negative employment growth - namely the West Midlands, Merseyside and South Yorkshire.

Labour's proposals for a decentralised regional policy will at last start to close the gaps and use EU funding more effectively to build economic and social cohesion both within and between regions of the UK.

ARLENE McCARTHY MEP

(Peak District, Lab)

Glossop, Derbyshire

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