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European Commission presents its ‘Social Investment Package’ and urges the EU-27 to focus on growth and social cohesion [editar]

The accompanying video features cases of good practice in social inclusion, among which Spain's Operational Programme Fight Against Discrimination and the Fundación Secretariado Gitano's Acceder and Promociona programmes stand out.



The European Commission urges Member States in its Communication on a Social Investment Package to modernise their welfare systems and give priority to public spending on social policies, in order to alleviate the negative impact of budget cuts on efforts to prevent further increases in unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, which currently affect close to 120 million persons in the European Union (EU).

Social investment is key if we want to emerge from the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive” affirmed Lászlo Andor, European Commissionner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, at a press conference in Brussels to present a Social Investment Package , a series of non-binding recommendations to support EU member states’ efforts to improve their growth and employment strategies. Mr Andor added that “Member States' social policies need to learn from the best performing European welfare states, to be simpler, to adopt a life-cycle approach, and to work more coherently against gender inequalities.”

The Commission promoted the launch of its Social Investment Package with a 33-minute video that presents the successful social inclusion strategies of some Member States. The video highlights the work of four key social inclusion NGOs in Spain: the Fundación Secretariado Gitano, the Spanish Red Cross, Caritas and the Fundación ONCE, which together manage the Operational Programme Fight Against Discrimination, co-financed by the European Social Fund and launched in 2000 with the aim of opening the labour market to persons at risk of poverty and/or exclusion. Since its creation, the joint work of these four organisations has achieved a total of 230,466 job contracts.

The video features two projects of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano, among other best practices: its employment and training programme Acceder, and its educational support programme Promociona.

Bringing focus on human capital

Mr Andor advised that “Within existing budget constraints, Member States need to shift their focus to investment in human capital and social cohesion. This can make a real difference if we want to make real progress towards the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Social Investment today helps to prevent Member States having to pay much higher financial and social bills tomorrow”.

It is the view of the Commission that the budget cuts implemented by European governments to respond to the crisis, which have disproportionately targeted their social protection and active inclusion systems in the name of ‘competitiveness’, are in many cases short-sighted and misguided. Mr Andor quoted President Barroso’s State of the Union address last September: “It is precisely those European countries with the most effective social protection systems and with the most developed social partnerships that are among the most successful and competitive economies in the world”.

What is the Social Investment Package?

The Commission’s Communication defines social investment as one of the central characteristics of welfare states, i.e. “strengthening people’s current and future capacities. […] Social investment helps to ‘prepare’ people to confront life’s risks, rather than simply ‘repairing’ the consequences”. Social investment has both positive immediate effects but can also achieve lasting impacts by offering economic and social returns over time, notably in terms of employment prospects or incomes.

On this basis, the Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion is an integrated policy framework that offers a battery of recommendations to support Member States in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of their social spending, taking into account national differences. It builds upon the European Commission’s flagship initiative European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion and complements other recent Commission initiatives to address Europe’s social and economic challenges, such as the Employment Package, Youth Employment Package and the White Paper on Pensions. These policy initiatives offer guidance on national reforms required to achieve the Europe 2020 Strategy objectives in terms of employment, education and poverty reduction.

The Social Investment Package offers concrete guidelines for action based on a series of analytical documents on active inclusion, health systems, Long Term Care, homelessness, and fighting child poverty among others. It also highlights good practices in targeted interventions.

In the words of the Commission, the Package focuses on:

  1. “Ensuring that social protection systems respond to people's needs at critical moments throughout their lives. More needs to be done to reduce the risk of social breakdown and so avoid higher social spending in the future.
  2. Simplified and better targeted social policies, to provide adequate and sustainable social protection systems. Some countries have better social outcomes than others despite having similar or lower budgets, demonstrating that there is room for more efficient social policy spending.
  3. Upgrading active inclusion strategies in the Member States. Affordable quality childcare and education, prevention of early school leaving, training and job-search assistance, housing support and accessible health care are all policy areas with a strong social investment dimension.”

In order to revert current negative social and economic trends, the Commission insists that Member States should give priority to areas such as the provision of early childhood education and care, combating early school leaving, quality lifelong training and active labour policies, and improving access to health and rehabilitation services.

In addition, the Social Investment Package emphasises the importance of social innovation, the creation of social enterprises, and people’s access to micro-finance, as potential high value tools in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

The Commission will provide specific financial assistance to Member States to develop such types of policies through the European Social Fund (ESF) in the framework of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, and the Package offers guidance on how best to use EU financial resources to boost social investment.

The Commission will be closely monitoring the performance of individual Member States’ social protection systems as part of the European Semester.

Why now?

The Commission has presented the Social Investment Package at a critical juncture in time when 24% of the EU’s population, i.e. more than 120 million persons, live in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion, while 10.6% of the EU’s active population (26 million persons) is unemployed. Youth unemployment is particularly worrying, reaching 22.7% of all active persons aged 16-24, while an astounding 12.9% of youth is neither in employment, nor in training and education.

The presentation of the Package is also timely given that the coming months will witness protracted negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the EU budget agreed by the latter for 2014-2020, as well as the next programming period for EU funds.

The Commission has proposed that at least 20 per cent of total ESF resources in each Member State shall be used for promoting social inclusion and combating poverty, and that the ESF should be endowed with at least 25 per cent of cohesion policy funding.