Extending the benefits of the social dimension of globalisation to all

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Extending the benefits of the social dimension of globalisation to all

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Employment and social policy > Employment and social policy: international dimension and enlargement

Extending the benefits of the social dimension of globalisation to all

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Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 May 2004 entitled “The social dimension of globalisation – the EU’s policy contribution on extending the benefits to all” [COM(2004) 383 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Via this communication the European Commission wishes to contribute to the debate for fair and sustainable globalisation.


Globalisation translates into a progressive integration of economies and societies. It is driven by new technologies, new economic relationships and the national and international policies of a wide range of actors, including governments, international organisations, business, media, labour and civil society. The process of globalisation has brought significant benefits to many people across the world. Higher quality, and higher earning jobs have been created in parts of the world which previously relied largely on agriculture to maintain their people.

However, the benefits of globalisation are not shared equally across all countries and groups. The results of economic integration at global level are unbalanced and often unfavourable to vulnerable actors, whether they are regions, sectors or workers. In order to be genuinely sustainable, globalisation must ensure fairer social development for all.


The European Union has long been striving, both within the European Union (EU) and at international level, to ensure that the economic benefits of globalisation go hand in hand with social progress.

Achievements within the EU

Thanks to its own regional integration experience, the European Union represents a pertinent model of economic, political and social integration. Although this model and the Lisbon strategy, which translates it into practice and was designed in 2000 by the Heads of State and Government, cannot simply be transferred to other parts of the world, some of its features are relevant to them.

The European Union has created a single market for the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons, reinforced by Economic and Monetary Union. It pursues mutually reinforcing policies to meet the needs of competitiveness, employment, social progress and sustainable environment. The system established by the Union is such that this economic integration leads to an improvement of the living and working conditions of European citizens, notably in the less developed Member States. In this connection the European Union has focused on solid institutional structures, the interplay between them, involvement of the stakeholders through the European social dialogue, fundamental standards for employment, such as non-discrimination in employment and equality between men and women, minimum standards as regards occupational health and safety and working conditions, supportive national social protection systems, an investment in human capital, the quality of employment and, in a more general manner, respect of human rights and the rule of law.

The transformation of the economies of the eight Central and Eastern European Countries, which joined the Union on 1 May 2004, shows the relevance of the European economic and social model for countries in the process of economic transition.

Achievements at international level

The European Union has long been aware that it is essential that its efforts for fair globalisation also translate into its external policies.

The European Union has utilised its various Economic Partnership Agreements to introduce the essential elements of sustainable globalisation. Hence it has focused its external policies on the links between trade and development, development cooperation focusing on poverty reduction, basic employment standards, corporate social responsibility, the environment, sustainable development, but also the rule of law, human rights and democratisation.

The Union mainstreams these elements in the bilateral agreements it concludes with virtually all countries and many regional groupings. Besides, via the Generalised System of Preferences, the European Union offers preferential access to the European market to developing countries which effectively respect the basic labour standards.

Besides, it supports various regional integration processes. These processes permit better integration in the world economy and thus help maximise the benefits of globalisation for their members.

Besides, thanks to its “European Neighbourhood Policy”, the Union is creating a zone of stability and prosperity with the Eastern and Southern neighbouring countries.

The Union does not neglect the private sector, which has a supplementary role to play in promoting fair globalisation.


While the European Union is actively involved via its policies in reinforcing the social dimension of globalisation, its efforts must be enhanced both at European and international level. The Structural Funds should help implement economic and social restructuring. All stakeholders are required to anticipate, trigger and absorb change. To better assess the social consequences of globalisation and better target its external aid interventions, the European Community intends to promote the mainstreaming of this social dimension, in particular in the above-mentioned areas and at the programming and implementation stages of its programmes and projects.

The actions of the European Union for developing countries should not however conceal the importance of the latter’s responsibility in managing globalisation and their own social development.

Besides, the contribution of international institutions to sustainable development, also with a view to promoting decent work, is essential. The World Trade Organisation (WTO), the international financial institutions (IFIs), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and all the United Nations’ institutions must work consistently and in a co-ordinated manner towards this goal.

Generally, the Commission strives to replace intentions by concrete actions.


The ILO’s World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation (WCSDG) published a report on “Fair globalisation: creating opportunities for all” on 24 February 2004. The European Commission wishes to participate in the debate opened by the WCSDG and in the implementation of its proposals and recommendations by presenting its contribution to the social dimension of globalisation.

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