Commission launches Programme for Social Change and Innovation
In late February 2012, the European Commission launched its Programme for Social Change and Innovation, the aim of which is to support employment and social policy in the EU. The programme focuses on the challenges posed by high unemployment rates, poverty, social exclusion and the ageing population. It will integrate three existing Commission-managed programmes, PROGRESS, the European employment services EURES and the European Progress Microfinance Facility.
The Commission launched a proposal for a Regulation on a Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI) in February 2012 as a way of helping the EU cope with pressing challenges such as high unemployment, poverty, social exclusion and the ageing population.
The proposal contains elements that attempt to address all these issues, including:
- the need to reform welfare and pension systems and labour markets;
- improved access to finance for companies, the unemployed and those in unstable employment;
- improved support to enable people to work in other countries.
The PSCI will be managed by the Commission and is part of its proposal for the EU regional, employment and social policy for 2014–2020. Together with the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), it forms the third pillar of the EU Initiative for Employment and Social Inclusion for 2014–2020.
The PSCI will come into force on 1 January 2014 and run until 31 December 2020. It will integrate and extend the following three programmes:
Working with other programmes
Under the PSCI, the PROGRESS programme will continue, but will be given a specific budget in order to support social innovation and experimentation. This will include testing innovative policies on a relatively small scale. If successful, the policies can then be upscaled, possibly with ESF support. Out of the €574 million proposed for PROGRESS during 2014 and 2020, €97 million will be allocated to experimental projects.
The PSCI will also strengthen the EURES system. Its activities at national and cross-border level will be financed by the ESF, with the aim of supporting the mobility of workers and helping employers recruit employees in different countries.
At EU level, EURES will create and develop new and targeted mobility schemes. One of these is the ‘Your First EURES Job’ programme, currently being piloted in the form of a Preparatory Action (341Kb PDF) to help people aged between 18 and 30 find work in another EU Member State. It is also trying to encourage SMEs to employ young people.
There will be no increase in the EURES budget, which is around €20 million a year, although the budget for the Your First EURES Job programme will be €10 million a year.
Finally, the PSCI will extend support for microcredit providers under the European Progress Microfinance Facility, which was launched in 2010. It will also fund capacity building of microfinance institutions and help finance the development and expansion of social enterprises. The Commission is proposing a total budget for this of around €192 million between 2014 and 2020.
This is the latest policy tool to be developed by the Commission in the long-running battle to stabilise the EU economy and labour markets in the context of the recent and ongoing severe financial crisis. The Commission hopes the PSCI will enable workers to move more freely around the EU and that young workers in particular will benefit from additional support in their efforts to enter the labour market.
Social enterprises and SMEs in particular will benefit from extra funding to encourage them to hire young workers. They will also benefit from easier access to finance for the purposes of expansion, consolidation, development and the scaling up of operations. The overall aim of the PCSI is to enable the Commission to increase the policy coherence and impact of its instruments, which have common objectives, and thus contribute to implementing the Europe2020 Strategy for Jobs and Growth.
These are difficult times, but it is hoped that this type of support for policy coordination, sharing of best practice, capacity-building and testing of innovative policies will contribute to growth and employment in the EU.
Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies