Category Archives: Priorities and Objectives: the Social Agenda

The aim of the European Unions social policy is to promote employment, the improvement of living and working conditions, an appropriate level of social protection, dialogue with the social partners, development of human resources so as to ensure a high and sustainable employment level, and measures to combat exclusion. The new Social Agenda for the period 2006 2010 is set in the context of the relaunching of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. It responds to the European objectives of solidarity and prosperity through fundamental priorities: employment, and action to tackle poverty and promote equal opportunities.

The renewed social agenda

The renewed social agenda

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The renewed social agenda

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

The renewed social agenda

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 July 2008 – Renewed social agenda: Opportunities, access and solidarity in 21st century Europe COM(2008) 412 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

This Communication establishes the priorities which should direct European social policy for the period 2008-2010. The renewed social agenda is based upon the results of the Lisbon Strategy with regard to economic stability and employment. Furthermore, so as to better respond to the socio-economic challenges of the XXIst century, its scope is extended to new areas of policy action structured around three goals:

  • creating new opportunities in the employment market;
  • facilitating access to education, social protection, health care and quality services for all;
  • developing solidarity at the heart of European society, so to foster social inclusion and equal opportunities for all.


These goals will be achieved, at Community level, through the implementation of legislation, appropriate financing and the cooperation of Member States. The Commission supports the renewal of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) in the area of youth and the reinforcement of the OMC in the areas of social protection and social inclusion as well as the development of social dialogue, civil dialogue and active European citizenship.

PRIORITY AREAS FOR ACTION

Children and youth

Quality education systems adapted to the needs of the employment market should contribute to the inclusion of young people in society. New initiatives from the Commission should, in particular, target the protection of the rights of the child and the fight against child poverty.

More and better jobs and the enhancement of skills

In line with the Lisbon Strategy and the European Sustainable Development Strategy, the social agenda encourages the modernisation of employment markets. To this end, Member States should apply common principles relating to flexicurity and promoting lifelong education and training.

In particular the Commission proposes to improve the functioning of European Works Councils. The Commission announces a new initiative for the assessment of labour market and skills needs up to 2020. It also promotes entrepreneurship and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Mobility

The Commission should pursue actions promoting the free movement of workers, the protection of their social rights and their working conditions, as well as the total suppression of obstacles to their free movement within the European Union (EU). Social partners must take an active part in achieving the objectives of the European Job Mobility Action Plan.

The Commission proposes action in favour of the mobility of knowledge, notably with the aim of facilitating the mobility of researchers, young entrepreneurs, students and volunteers.

Improving the quality of life and the inclusion of the elderly

In the context of an ageing European society, Member States should be able to ensure quality, viable and accessible health systems. The Commission proposes, in particular, the development of patients’ rights to cross-border health care. It supports the development of ICTs in the field of health care, personal services and research.

The fight against poverty and social exclusion

The social agenda anticipates an integrated strategy of active inclusion of the most disadvantaged such as the unemployed, the handicapped, the elderly and women. It aims at encouraging income support, access to employment and services, the information society, education and training.

The fight against discrimination

The Commission pursues the reinforcing of the legal framework with regard to the fight against discrimination both within and outside the field of employment. Community policies specifically target equal treatment between men and women, notably through the promotion of access by women to the labour market and equal pay between men and women.

The promotion of social rights at worldwide level

The EU plays a role at international level in promoting high social standards protecting workers, consumers and the environment. The action is carried out within the framework of external cooperation agreements, trade policies, development assistance and EU accession negotiations. The Commission also encourages Member States to apply the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

CONTEXT

In 2007 the Commission launched a public consultation in order to take stock of social reality in Europe. The renewed social agenda takes into account the global economic slowdown, the ageing population and the latest technological progress.

The goals and measures in the social agenda will be reviewed in 2010 together with the Lisbon Strategy.

Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

The aim of the European Unions social policy is to promote employment, the improvement of living and working conditions, an appropriate level of social protection, dialogue with the social partners, development of human resources so as to ensure a high and sustainable employment level, and measures to combat exclusion. The new Social Agenda for the period 2006 2010 is set in the context of the relaunching of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. It responds to the European objectives of solidarity and prosperity through fundamental priorities: employment, and action to tackle poverty and promote equal opportunities.

THE SOCIAL AGENDA

  • The renewed social agenda
  • The Social Policy Agenda (2006-2010)
  • Agenda for social policy (2000-2005)
  • Mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda
  • Scoreboard on implementing the 2004 social policy agenda

PRIORITIES AND OBJECTIVES

  • Towards a new social vision for 21st century Europe
  • European Globalisation Adjustment Fund
  • European values in a globalised world

Agenda for social policy

Agenda for social policy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Agenda for social policy

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Agenda for social policy (2000-2005)

The European Commission proposes a series of actions with a view to improving the European social model. This model is designed to promote full employment, economic dynamism and greater social cohesion and fairness in the European Union (EU).

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Social policy agenda [COM(2000) 379 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

1. The rationale of the Commission’s communication has been articulated in the preparation of the Lisbon European Council (March 2000), which resulted in a political agreement designed to promote “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”.

2. The Commission’s new agenda aims to provide a comprehensive and coherent approach for the European Union to confront the new challenges to social policy. This new agenda stresses the essential linkage between Europe’s economic strength and its social model, and is also designed to permit positive and dynamic interaction of economic, employment and social policy.

3. It is based on a series of measures designed to reinforce social policy as a productive factor: employment and quality of work, the knowledge-based economy, the social situation in the Member States, enlargement and internationalisation.

Employment and quality of work

4. The European Union has made considerable progress in strengthening its economic fundamentals and fostering job creation. However, the current employment rate is unsatisfactory and unemployment remains high (around 9% of the European workforce). Hence the objective is to work towards raising the employment rate to as close as possible to 70 % by 2010.

5. The employment strategy include actions to create more and better jobs, reinforcing the role of the European Social Fund (ESF), the main Community instrument to foster human resources development, developing and evaluating labour market policies on the basis of a peer review approach and the exchange of good practices, and ensuring consistency between economic, structural and employment policies.

The knowledge-based economy

6. A knowledge-based society and a knowledge-based economy can contribute to sustainable economic growth, an increase in employment and more social cohesion. Despite the European initiatives in the field of research and the ” e-Europe ” initiatives, Europe lags behind the US in taking up new technologies.

7. Hence the Commission’s main objective is to accelerate the development of the knowledge-based economy in such a way as to create more jobs in Europe. This will involve pursuing the objectives of the knowledge-based society in the framework of the European Employment Strategy (EES), ensuring life-long learning and closing the skills and gender gaps, and promoting cooperation at European level between research establishments, scientific centres, the universities and schools.

The social situation in the Member States

8. The social systems of the Member States now face a series of significant common challenges such as the need to adapt to the changing world of work, new family structures, persistent gender inequalities, demographic changes. Failure to adapt and modernise social protection systems would increase the risk of more unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.

9. With a view to preventing and eradicating poverty and exclusion and promoting the integration and participation of all into economic and social life, the Commission proposes a series of actions designed to promote more and better job opportunities for vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities, ethnic groups and new immigrants, evaluate the impact of the ESF, including the community initiative Equal and prepare new strategies, including actions in the field of education and training, to support the efforts of the Member States.

Enlargement

10. By preparing for European Union membership, the candidate countries are already in the process of adopting a comprehensive body of laws and rules, which should ensure the compliance with the European Union social acquis by the time of accession.

11. In order to contribute to preparing the enlargement of the Union under conditions of balanced economic and social development, the Commission proposes to continue with the elaboration of the Employment Policy Reviews with all candidate countries, to promote co-operation between civil society organisations from the European Union and from the candidate countries, to prepare for joint analysis in the field of social protection and to ensure the successful participation of candidate countries in Community action programmes in the social area as part of the pre-accession strategy.

Internationalisation

12. Internationalisation and globalisation are important facets of the conditions confronting Europe and its social systems. This does not imply abandoning social objectives. Rather, it reinforces the economic need for social investment by way of well-designed social policies.

13. A key aim will be to strengthen the employment and social dimension of globalisation, through the respect of core labour standards, close cooperation with the international organisations (ILO, OECD, Council of Europe) and the promotion of an integrated economic and social agenda in a global economy.

Context

14. In order to achieve the political commitments adopted at Lisbon, the Commission proposes a new five-year agenda (2000-2005) that will contribute to pursuing the social objectives of Lisbon.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda (c10115) [COM(2004) 137 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Mid-term review of the social policy agenda [COM(2003) 312 final -Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2003) 57 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2002) 89 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2001) 104 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Scoreboard on implementing the 2004 social policy agenda

Scoreboard on implementing the 2004 social policy agenda

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Scoreboard on implementing the 2004 social policy agenda

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Scoreboard on implementing the 2004 social policy agenda

The Commission has presented the fourth scoreboard in order to report on the implementation of the European social policy agenda. This communication monitors how the agenda is transformed into policy measures and concrete action.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2004) 137 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

1. The Commission’s current scoreboard responds to the invitation made both by the European Parliament and the European Council to keep track of the achievements made in European social policy in recent years. This policy is intended to modernise and improve the European social model established at the Lisbon European Council.

Evaluation of the economic, employment and social situation in the last three years (2000-2003)

2. The first period of the European social policy agenda (2000-2003) was essentially marked by a period of sustained growth slowdown in Europe and the economy’s performance continued to be weak. However, economic forecasts project that GDP growth will pick up in 2004.

3. This economic stagnation has had an impact on employment, which has also increased slightly. Unless the Member States step up their reform efforts, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the employment objectives for 2010 will be attained.

4. With regard to the social situation, the latest available income data shows that about 15% of the EU population (55 million individuals) were at risk of poverty in 2001, and more than half of them were at risk of poverty in at least two of the preceding three years.

5. The Commission is using the current scoreboard to evaluate the social measures which have been adopted and to monitor implementation. However, the adoption of new measures has been postponed until 2004 to allow a more in-depth evaluation of possible scenarios. The scoreboard analyses the implementation of the agenda in the following areas:

  • creating more and better jobs;
  • anticipating and managing change;
  • social inclusion and fighting discrimination;
  • modernising social protection;
  • promoting gender equality;
  • strengthening the social policy aspects of enlargement and the European Union’s external policies.

Creating more and better jobs

6. An absolute top priority of the social policy agenda is to work towards the goal of full employment, defined in the Lisbon strategy as raising the employment rate to as close as possible to 70% by 2010. However, reaching the employment target for 2005 has become unattainable, and there is a risk that the 2010 target will not be reached either. For a better understanding of the causes of these results, the employment strategy was evaluated in depth, focusing on the following points:

  • strengthening and coordinating employment in order to address the remaining structural weaknesses in the labour markets;
  • the quality of jobs, to allow Europe to reach its goal of full employment;
  • reviewing the role of the European Social Fund (ESF), which contributes to strengthening convergence and cohesion, and of EQUAL, the Community initiative to combat all forms of discrimination and inequality;
  • lifelong learning in order to improve people’s careers;
  • mobility and implementation of the EURES network, designed to find jobs and vocational training in other Member States;
  • immigration policy and employment in order to integrate migrants entirely into the labour market, as well as into social, cultural and civic life.

Managing change

7. The European Council’s political orientations on the social policy agenda called for fresh collective responses to manage the changes in the economy and the labour market. It also identified social dialogue and consultation as key instruments in managing change. The implementation of the social partners’ multiannual work programme adopted at the end of 2002 is of crucial importance in this respect.

8. The measures adopted for the management of change in European social policy are based on:

  • involving workers in managing change, which will allow the development of a European cooperative structure for the effective involvement of employees;
  • health and safety at work as set out in the Community strategy proposed by the Commission for the period 2002-2006;
  • working environment and working relations, in particular gender equality, the protection of privacy in the employment context and the improvement of occupational pension rights;
  • corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is designed to encourage enterprises to integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations on a voluntary basis.

Social inclusion and fighting discrimination

9. The draft Joint Report on Social Inclusion highlights the importance of fighting poverty and social exclusion and underlines the immediate link with economic development.

10. This approach to social inclusion is based on:

  • the social inclusion strategy, fighting poverty and social exclusion by applying the open method of coordination, which is intended to eradicate poverty by 2010;
  • the eradication of the digital divide by means of the R&D and structural funds programmes such as eEurope 2002, with a view to creating an information society for all;
  • equal treatment for third-country nationals, for example in relation to social security schemes;
  • combating discrimination via European legislation, campaigns against all forms of discrimination and the creation of a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia;
  • the integration of people with disabilities by means of an action plan on equal opportunities introduced in 2003, the European Year of People with Disabilities;
  • support for civil dialogue in the field of social policy in order to promote active European citizenship.

Modernising social protection

11. In order to make coordination in the social field more operational, the Commission has proposed to gradually streamline the coordination processes into a single entity by the year 2006. This approach should increase the strategic importance of coordination in the social domain, bringing social inclusion, pensions, health care and making work pay within one open method of coordination.

12. The principal measures taken to modernise social protection are based on the following points:

  • application of the open method of coordination for the adoption of adequate and sustainable pensions in order to address the challenge of an ageing population;
  • achieving high-quality and sustainable health care with a view to guaranteeing the future of health care and care for the elderly;
  • making work pay by connecting social inclusion, social protection and employment policy;
  • modernising the coordination of social security systems, in particular simplifying invalidity benefits, old age and survivors’ benefits, introduction of the European Health Insurance Card and the EU-Swiss Agreement on the free movement of persons.

Promoting gender equality

13. The Social Policy agenda defines two major approaches to promoting gender equality: mainstreaming and specific initiatives.

14. With regard to mainstreaming in the social field, the Commission reports every year on progress made in Community policies and practices in the wider context of social protection, such as pensions and making work pay.

15. With regard to specific measures, the Commission presented a proposal for a directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women with regard to access to goods and services, a new action programme to promote European organisations in the field of equality and a public consultation with a view to simplifying the existing legislation.

Strengthening the social policy aspects of enlargement and the EU’s external policies

16. The top priority for enlargement is ensuring compliance with the Community acquis. In order to facilitate the participation of the accession countries, special attention is given to preparing for their participation in the open method of cooperation in the fields of employment and social inclusion. Enlargement also requires investment in capacity building, in particular with regard to the social partners and preparations for future operations under the European Social Fund.

17. Several measures have been taken to promote employment, the fight against social exclusion, non-discrimination and equal opportunities.

18. The Commission has increased its cooperation with international organisations such as the OECD and the ILO with regard to international cooperation and external relations, with countries such as Japan and the USA in relation to employment, with the G-8 in relation to investment in human resources and with the UN in relation to human rights and the rights of people with disabilities.

19. The outcome of this cooperation has been the worldwide promotion of core labour standards, social dialogue, poverty eradication and the decent work agenda.

Initiatives for 2004

20. The mid-term review of the social policy agenda updated the planning of policy action for the years 2004 and 2005, based on the assessment of the first years of implementation of the social policy agenda and the assessment of the main challenges to be addressed. This review has also identified two key priorities: consolidating social standards throughout the EU by ensuring the correct transposal and application of the Community acquis and implementing the agenda adopted at the Lisbon Summit and the social policy agenda endorsed by the Nice European Council.

21. In 2004, the Commission plans to take measures in the six areas mentioned above.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Mid-term review of the social policy agenda [COM(2003) 312 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2003) 57 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2002) 89 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2001) 104 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Social policy agenda (c10115) [COM(2000) 379 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda

Mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda

Following the creation of a European Social Policy Agenda (June 2000), the Commission presents a mid-term review in order to reflect on past action and to focus the key new social policy measures on the Union of 25 Member States.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda [COM(2003) 312 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

1. This Communication, which has been drawn up on the basis of a conference organised by the Commission, is a mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda launched by the European Commission for the period 2000-2005 under the Lisbon strategy. It is designed to check implementation of the Agenda and to pinpoint the new policies needed to achieve it.

PROGRESS ACHIEVED IN THE YEARS 2000-2003

2. The Lisbon policy framework formed the basis for the Social Policy Agenda, as introduced by the Commission in June 2000. Over these three years, the work devoted to implementing this Agenda was focused on the preparation of measures designed to guarantee the conditions conducive to a period of high, non-inflationary growth, to create jobs, wealth and prosperity and to enhance social cohesion.

3. To date, in spite of clear signs of an economic downturn and a rise in unemployment, the reforms that have been implemented have produced significant structural changes, especially the creation of nearly 10 million jobs since the European Employment Strategy was launched (1997), a fall in long-term unemployment and a rise in the labour force participation rate, which increased from 62.3% in 1999 (the year before the launch of the Social Policy Agenda) to 64.3% in 2002.

4. As far as the social situation is concerned, the lack of data means that it remains hard to determine how much progress has been made in combating poverty and promoting social inclusion. However, the improvements observed in the area of employment, especially the fall in structural unemployment, should have helped to strengthen social cohesion.

5. Since the Commission realises the role of social policy as a factor of productivity and part and parcel of the dynamic development of economies, its approach to the Social Policy Agenda covers various areas, including:

  • investment in research, education and training, which strengthens the human capital available in a knowledge-based economy, increases productivity and reduces social failure;
  • investment in high standards of performance at the workplace, which raises productivity and lowers losses due to accidents;
  • investment in active policies in the area of integration and equal opportunities for all, in order to bring disadvantaged groups into economic life;
  • investment in social harmony, which makes it possible to keep costly industrial or work disputes to a minimum.

6. These areas were covered thanks to the active role that the Social Policy Agenda gives to a wide range of players, including the institutions, bodies and agencies of the European Union; the Member States, including their regional and local authorities; the social partners, civil society and enterprises. The Commission takes the view that this participation is one of the strong points of the Agenda and that this approach must be pursued with determination.

7. The Social Policy Agenda also stresses the need to find the right combination of the various instruments available at European level, including the open method of coordination, legislation, social dialogue, the Structural Funds, the action programmes, the measures to incorporate the gender dimension, policy analysis and research. All these instruments were used very actively in the first half of the implementation of the Agenda.

THE PROGRESS TO BE MADE

8. During the first half of the implementation of the Social Policy Agenda, it proved possible to launch practically all the planned measures. The task in the second half will therefore be to check and ensure the implementation of the measures that have been launched. The priorities and the policy measures are focused on the following areas: growth and the quality of jobs, change in the working environment, combating of exclusion and discrimination, modernisation of social protection, promotion of equality between men and women and strengthening of the social side of enlargement and of the external relations of the European Union.

More and better-quality jobs

9. On the basis of the objective of ensuring that the employment rate is as close as possible to 70% by 2010, the new employment strategy focuses on three main objectives: full employment, the quality and productivity of employment, cohesion and a labour market that promotes integration.

10. In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission has adopted proposals for employment guidelines and recommendations, such as transforming undeclared work into regular jobs and clarifying the immigration issue. Together with the main economic policy guidelines, they form part of a set of strategic instruments for creating more and better jobs.

11. The Commission also planned to conduct a mid-term review of the European Social Fund (ESF), the key financial instrument of the European Employment Strategy, and to launch the second phase of the EQUAL Community initiative in 2004, designed to promote the combating of discrimination and inequality on the labour market.

Changing the work environment through a new balance between flexibility and security

12. The key message underlying the Lisbon strategy is “transformation”, i.e. change as a factor for regeneration of the economy, dynamism and innovation, giving impetus to growth and productivity.

13. Realising the importance of partnership and of the cross-industry and sectoral social dialogue for change, the Commission intends to strengthen the rules and promote good practices. In order to give direction to these activities, it intends to pursue the study of representation and the production of monographs on the social partners.

14. The process of convergence that enlargement will bring about will further strengthen the need to manage economic and social change in order to ensure that it produces a lasting improvement in living standards. Ahead of enlargement, the Commission planned several measures, such as the review of the European centre for managing change at the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

15. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the promotion of health and safety at work will also be fundamental priorities in the second half of the implementation of the Social Policy Agenda.

Combating all forms of exclusion and discrimination

16. The principles of solidarity and social inclusion form the basis for a high level of social cohesion, as was recognised by the European Heads of State and Government at the Lisbon Council. Moreover, enlargement will make the issues of social exclusion and poverty even more urgent.

17. The Commission is therefore continuing its integrated, overall approach, which takes account of poverty and exclusion. The planned measures are focused on three main areas: social inclusion, with the review of the poverty and social exclusion indicators, planned for 2004, the action plan on the integration of people with disabilities, planned for 2005, and the future strategy for combating discrimination, also planned for 2005.

Modernisation of social protection

18. The modernisation of the European social model makes it necessary to improve social protection in order to respond to the move towards a knowledge-based economy and o the change in social and family structures. This modernisation should draw on the role of social protection as a productive factor.

19. The Commission takes the view that greater cooperation in the area of social protection also requires increasing involvement of all players concerned at all levels, and it proposes the open method of coordination in order to strengthen the social dimension of the Lisbon strategy. The use of this open method will make it possible to move gradually towards a simplified procedure of social protection and an exchange of good practices on issues in order to improve coordination in the area of healthcare.

Equality between women and men

20. The Commission considers that equal opportunities between women and men must be promoted across the board in the Social Policy Agenda and be supplemented by a number of specific measures.

21. The initiatives announced for the second half of the implementation of the Social Policy Agenda include a draft Directive on equal treatment and the elimination of discrimination for 2003, a report to the spring Council (2004) on progress towards gender equality and the proposal to revitalise the framework strategy on gender equality, planned for 2005.

Strengthening the social side of enlargement and of the external relations of the European Union

22. Enlargement and international relations constitute a challenge and an opportunity for Community action in the social field. It is therefore necessary to develop the sharing of experience and strategies with the candidate countries and to promote an integrated economic and social agenda that corresponds to the European approach in international bodies.

23. In order to optimise preparation for the accession of the ten new countries, from 2003 the Commission stepped up the monitoring of legislative and political developments in these countries. Their participation in Community programmes and agencies was to provide good preparation, familiarising the future new Member States with the Union’s policies and working methods.

24. As far as international cooperation is concerned, the Commission takes the view that the social dimension should be actively promoted in the EU’s international relations, cooperation with international organisations, such as the UN or the OECD, and bilateral cooperation.

Background

25. The mid-term review of the Social Policy Agenda provides a unique opportunity to reflect on past work and to direct the key measures towards the Union of 25 Member States, based on the conviction that the preservation of the European corpus of social rules and regulations is a major priority. For the post-2005 period, the Commission has set up a high-level group of experts [PDF ] with a remit to study the future of social and employment policy in the EU.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Scoreboard on implementing the Social Policy Agenda [COM(2003) 57 final – not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Scoreboard on implementing the Social Policy Agenda [COM(2002) 89 final – not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Scoreboard on implementing the Social Policy Agenda [COM(2001) 104 final – not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Social policy Agenda [COM(2000) 379 final – not published in the Official Journal].

 

The Social Policy Agenda

The Social Policy Agenda

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The Social Policy Agenda

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

The Social Policy Agenda (2006-2010)

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission. The Social Agenda [COM(2005) 33 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

This communication identifies the priorities that should guide the European Union’s action in the development of the European social model. It is also intended to promote social cohesion as part both of the Lisbon strategy and the Sustainable Development Strategy. This review of the Agenda has a key role in promoting the social dimension of economic growth and improving the implementation of the measures foreseen by the old Social Agenda (2000-2005).

The added value of the Social Agenda is beyond doubt because it facilitates the modernisation of national systems against a background of far-reaching economic and social changes. It supports the harmonious operation of the single market while ensuring respect for fundamental rights and common values.

The Agenda develops a two-pronged strategy: Firstly, it emphasises its role in strengthening citizens’ confidence; secondly, it presents key measures under two major headings, namely employment and equal opportunities and inclusion.

STRENGTHENING CITIZENS’ CONFIDENCE

The measures proposed are designed to enable citizens to gain confidence in their own ability to effectively manage change, viz.: increased competition in a global context, technological development and population ageing.

In this context, the Agenda presents several key conditions:

  • an intergenerational approach;
  • a partnership for change;
  • integration of the external dimension

An intergenerational approach

The changes brought about by the demographic development – notably the ageing of the European populations – the need to adapt systems of social protection and pensions to these changes, the need to improve the integration of young people and to address the whole question of migration are major challenges.

To this end, the Commission plans to analyse future challenges and proposes a series of measures to analyse the demographic changes of European populations.

A partnership for change

Given that the partnership between the authorities, the social partners and civil society is one of the keys to the success of European policies, the Commission will propose the organisation of an annual meeting of all players concerned in a forum. The aim of this meeting will be to evaluate the implementation of the Agenda on a regular basis.

Integration of the external dimension

The Commission also plans to incorporate the European social model into external dialogue and measures at bilateral, regional and multilateral level

THE TWO PRIORITY AREAS

The two priority areas concerning the strategic objectives of the new Agenda are:

  • employment, under the prosperity objective;
  • equal opportunities and inclusion, under the solidarity objective.

Achieving full employment

In order to attain the Lisbon growth and jobs objectives, the Commission has proposed a revamped cycle of the European Employment Strategy (EES) in the framework of the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy. This new cycle should underpin long-term economic growth, combat unemployment and regional disparities and promote social cohesion.

To ensure that the European Social Fund fosters convergence, employment and competitiveness, the Commission plans to put forward several measures, notably a measure to sensitise the ESF players in 2006 and a communication campaign among parliaments and players concerned in 2006-2007.

The Commission also proposes developing a strategy for anticipating, triggering and managing economic change more effectively. This strategy is developed around four themes:

  • greater interplay between European policies;
  • greater involvement of the social partners;
  • greater synergy between policies and their financial levers, especially the ESF;
  • a stronger link between the EES and the development of the legal frameworks and social partners’ agreements.

In this new Agenda, the Commission also introduces a new dynamic for industrial relations and provides for several initiatives concerning the development of labour law, health and safety at work and corporate social responsibility

The Commission considers that the creation of a genuine European labour market is essential. This objective implies both removing the remaining direct and indirect barriers and, besides, drawing up policies that create the conditions for the players concerned to derive maximum benefit from the European area.

With a view to giving the social partners a basis for increasing their capacity to act at transnational level, the Commission plans to adopt a proposal designed to make it possible for the social partners to formalise the nature and results of transnational collective bargaining in an optimal way.

Equal opportunities and inclusion

The EU has been a driving force in implementing the principle of equal treatment. As the current framework strategy 2000-2005 comes to an end, the Commission plans to propose several actions to resolve such problems as the gender pay gap, women’s access to and participation in the labour market, training, career advancement, reconciliation of family and working life, equal opportunities for the disabled, etc.

The Commission also plans to organise a European year of equal opportunities in 2007 with a view to highlighting the results achieved and showing the advantages of diversity for the economy and society of Europe.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Document or Iniciative

Regulation (EC) No 1927/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on establishing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

Summary

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) supports the re-integration of European workers affected by redundancies directly associated with major changes in global commercial trade. The support is provided on an individual basis and for a limited period. In the longer term, the measures contained in the fund aim to help redundant workers find and hold on to a new job.

Until 31 December 2011, the fund also provides aid to workers who have lost their jobs due to the global financial and economic crisis.

Intervention criteria

For the EGF to intervene, an application for a grant must be submitted by a Member State.

A financial contribution can be provided where major structural changes in world trade patterns lead to a serious economic disruption in a European Union (EU) country. This could be a substantial increase in imports, a decline in market share in a given sector or a delocalisation of undertakings to third countries. The EGF may also intervene where redundancies are directly and demonstrably the result of the financial and economic crisis.

The economic crisis or disruption must result in:

  • at least 1000 redundancies over a period of 4 months in an enterprise, including redundancies in its suppliers or downstream producers; or
  • at least 1000 redundancies, over a period of 9 months, in a NACE 2 sector in one region or two contiguous regions at NUTS II level;
  • in small labour markets or in exceptional circumstances, the EGF may intervene even if the intervention conditions are not entirely met, when the redundancies have a serious impact on employment and the local economy. The aggregated amount of contributions for exceptional circumstances may not exceed 15 % of the EGF each year.

Financed measures

More specifically, the EGF finances:

  • job-search assistance;
  • tailor-made retraining;
  • entrepreneurship promotion;
  • aid for self-employment;
  • special temporary “income supplements” (job-search allowances, mobility allowances, training allowances, measures to stimulate disadvantaged or older workers to remain in or return to the labour market, etc.).

The EGF does not finance passive social protection measures such as unemployment benefits.

Operation

The annual number of workers to benefit from the fund depends on several factors. These factors include the development of the employment market, the number of eligible applications made by the Member States and the budgetary resources available, although the potential annual funding of EUR 500 million has not been fully allocated to date.

Workers will benefit from the EGF assistance via the Member States. The assistance is not handed out to enterprises. In addition, the period of validity of the fund is limited to 24 months from the date on which the application was submitted.

The EGF is a solidarity fund intended to respond to an emergency or crisis situation. It does not finance the restructuring of companies or sectors.

Context

Generally speaking, the effects of opening up economies to international competition are positive. Globalisation boosts competitiveness and opens up new opportunities for growth and employment.

Nonetheless, at the same time, this exposure to world trade may also have adverse effects on the economy. The intensification of trade flows means that local, national and regional socio-economic systems face greater competition, which affects the less competitive sectors where the adjustment costs (retraining of the workforce and conversion of production structures) are high. This can sometimes result in massive job losses.

In addition to the Structural Funds or the European Strategy for Growth and Jobs which already offer a general response in terms of managing and anticipating the challenges of globalisation, this specific fund is essential in order to avert any threat of lasting individual impoverishment.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1927/2006

19.1.2007

OJ L 406 of 30.12.2006

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 546/2009

2.7.2009

OJ L 167 of 29.6.2009

Related Acts

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the activities of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund in 2009 [COM(2010) 464 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the activities of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund in 2008 [COM(2009) 394 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 2 July 2008 “Solidarity in the face of Change: the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) in 2007” Review and Prospects [COM(2008) 421 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission gives a positive report on the implementation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) after its first year. However the effectiveness of the Fund could be improved in the short term, by simplifying its procedures, increasing its visibility and promoting exchange of experience.
The Commission studies the possibility of reinforcing its impact on the creation of jobs and training for Europe’s workers. The EGF could also be used to foster mobility of workers, and to better analyse and anticipate changes in the economy.

Towards a new social vision for 21st century Europe

Towards a new social vision for 21st century Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Towards a new social vision for 21st century Europe

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

Towards a new social vision for 21st century Europe

European values in a globalised world

European values in a globalised world

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European values in a globalised world

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Priorities and objectives: the social agenda

European values in a globalised world

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, of 20 October 2005, “European values in the globalised world – Contribution of the Commission to the October Meeting of Heads of State and Government” [COM(2005) 525 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Europe has historically had a high level of prosperity, social cohesion, environmental protection and quality of life based on the common values of solidarity and justice. Today, however, exclusion is a reality in Europe: the unemployment rate remains high (19 million unemployed in the EU), growth is slowing, and child poverty and inequality are on the increase.

Consequently, if Europe does not succeed in meeting the new challenges posed by new technologies, mobility, an ageing population and global competition, there is a risk that a socioeconomic duality that is both inclusive and exclusive will emerge on a long-term basis. This would also increase the gap between Europe and the rest of the world.

Hence the need to modernise and reform our social systems, a need symbolised by the process of reform begun in Lisbon in March 2000.

“Unity in diversity”: the reality of European social models

The EU’s Member States have developed their own socioeconomic models, reflecting their history and their collective choices. Each of these national models is underpinned by European characteristics:

  • common elements such as public pensions, health and long-term care, social protection, labour market regulation and redistribution through tax policies;
  • shared values such as solidarity and cohesion, equal opportunities and the fight against all forms of discrimination, health and safety in the workplace, universal access to education and healthcare, quality of life and quality in work, sustainable development and the involvement of civil society;
  • role of the public sector in the organisation and financing of national systems, much more so than in America or Asia;
  • a strong “European dimension” reinforcing national systems;
  • a tradition of social dialogue and partnership between governments, industry and trade unions.

However, besides these points which Member States have in common, the Commission underlines the significance of disparities within the EU. For example, Lithuania, Latvia and Ireland spend 14 to 15% of GDP on social protection systems, while France and Sweden spend 30%. In addition, the level of public pensions may be twice as high in one country as in another, varying from between 31 and 37% of average earnings in Ireland, the UK and Belgium to over 70% in Austria, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. It seems, therefore, that no Member State has yet found all the answers, despite the relative convergence in their approaches.

Findings and challenges: completing the transformation

The social reality in Europe today includes the challenges of unemployment, globalisation and population ageing.

The number one social problem is without doubt the persistent unemployment in the EU: 19 million people including mainly young people, women, migrants and older workers (aged 55 to 64).

In addition, weaknesses in education, research, innovation and productivity are holding back labour markets and economic performance in some Member States. The barriers to entry and exit on the job market are too high. Finally, the gap between the rich and the poor in the EU, both within Member States and between them, is considerable and is still widening.

Today, globalisation is no longer a choice but a reality. The emergence of new economic giants such as China and India puts the European economy to the test more than ever, in terms of trade, investment, technology, energy and production costs. Although knowledge and technology are important in Europe, the lack of qualified staff undermines the productivity of European companies.

The ageing of the European population is a reality in the Europe of the future. Based on current trends, the EU population will be both smaller and older due to low birth rates. According to statistics, by 2050 there will be 48 million fewer 15-64 year olds and 58 million more people over 65. The repercussions for Europe are considerable.

The reduction in the workforce will slow down growth (from 2 to 2.5% today it could fall to just 1.25% by 2040). Slower growth will come at a time when the costs of an ageing population start to peak (an increase varying between 4 and 8% of GDP across Member States). The sustainability of public finances is therefore at risk. Life expectancy will continue to increase, however, and in 45 years it will have risen to 81 for men and 86 for women.

Finally, while migration to the Union does not on its own provide a long-term solution, the Member States and the EU institutions have already adopted other measures. At national level, several countries have undertaken significant reforms of pension systems and of early retirement arrangements. At EU level, macroeconomic policies offer Member States a path towards stability and sound public finances. The reforms agreed within the Lisbon Agenda should also provide solutions.

While many reforms have already been undertaken in some Member States, Europe can no longer afford to wait. It is extremely well placed to help this transformation, with its economic and monetary stability, its scale (the largest trading block in the world), its financial resources (EU funding and programmes) and its external instruments (enlargement and development policies).

Responding to the challenges

While the Member States are more involved in social policy, the EU has an important part to play in the process of modernisation. The Europe of 25 Member States, with shared values and strong institutions acting together, may in fact be better equipped to deal with globalisation. Moreover, the European Union has a unique set of instruments at its disposal: in addition to its legislative, executive and judicial powers, it acts as a catalyst for new ideas and reform.

The Commission therefore recommends action based on:

  • greater coherence and coordination both between the different decision makers and between economic and social policies;
  • economic, labour market and social modernisation;
  • strengthening social justice by means of economic and labour market reforms;
  • greater coordination between the different levels of power (European, national, sub-national).

Various initiatives should be taken at European level:

  • completion of the internal market, including for services, telecoms, energy, and financial services;
  • delivery of more open and fairer markets;
  • promotion of enterprise;
  • improvement of the regulatory environment at EU level;
  • opening of third-country markets for European producers;
  • adoption of an agreement on the Financial Perspectives by the end of the year and on the principle of a new Globalisation Adjustment Fund;
  • ensuring the proper functioning of EMU as a key precondition to creating growth and jobs;
  • improving European economic governance and strengthening the coordination of economic and social policies.

Four objectives were set at national level:

  • to implement the agreed structural reforms and policies within the renewed Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs;
  • to raise employment rates and reduce unemployment;
  • to adapt pension, health and long-term care to meet changing needs;
  • to offer innovative solutions for the low paid.

Finally, the EU in partnership with the Member States must:

  • create an environment that champions innovation;
  • spell out a long-term and coherent energy policy;
  • direct more resources (both public and private) to education, training and skills;
  • promote a renewal of the social dialogue;
  • support efforts to deal with the social consequences of economic restructuring;
  • increase cooperation between Member States.

The Commission’s message is therefore clear. In order to preserve our values, we must modernise and we must do it together.

Background

This Communication is part of the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy, one of the main objectives of which is the reform of social systems. In this field, one of its aims is to create more and better jobs through work incentives, the modernisation of social protection systems, increasing the adaptability of workers and enterprises and improving education and training.