EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

All aboard - leaving social exclusion behind

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Resource pack

Europe can only succeed if each and everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential and overcome social exclusion and poverty.

Back to work - jobs for people after long-term illness or disability

The number of people claiming long-term disability payments is rising in many countries, exceeding 10% of the labour force in some Member States. The nature of the illnesses leading to disability claims and often early retirement are increasingly stress-related, resulting in mental health problems. Even more alarming is a relatively new trend – observed in a number of Member States – of a significant increase in the number of young people claiming disability benefits. Research shows that just 20% of those absent from work for more than 12 months ever return to work. Eurofound research on good practice in assisting people on disability benefits who have worked before has shown that this group is rarely recognised as a specific target group with specialised needs. Those involved in providing advice and guidance often do not have a qualification in counseling for people with disabilities. Eurofound research identified 12 areas that should ideally be covered by guidance services, ranging from more traditional tasks like vocational assessment and job matching to psychological support, counselling services and assistance in accessing grants.

Valuing experience - opportunities of working with and for older people

In many societies, old age is associated with wisdom and experience, and older people occupy a clear and respected position in the social order. In today’s European Union, this is not always the case. The results of Eurofound’s second European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS 2007) show that older people run the risk of being socially excluded. Ten per cent of the over-65 report a feeling of being ‘left out of society’. Difficult material conditions play a role in perceived social exclusion: in the new Member States, 70% of persons over 65 report difficulties in making ends meet. In 2008, the average retirement age was 61.4 years. Some companies who value the personal qualities of older workers and the skills acquired during their career have looked at innovative ways to keep them in employment longer. The key issues for keeping people in work longer are to prevent burn-out, which may occur at any age, to maintain employability and to value the contribution made, ensuring motivatiion and reward from work.

Sharing the load - why we need good childcare provision

Research has shown that 19% of children under the age of 16 are at risk of poverty across the EU, and 15% of children leave school without a secondary-level education. The rate of youth unemployment is about twice the average. Children in lone-parent families or large families, those with unemployed parents, from immigrant and ethnic minority families, or children who are disabled are most at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Providing accessible and affordable high quality childcare is a key way to fight child poverty. High-quality pre-school education gives children a good basis for lifelong learning and helps close the ‘education gap' for children who are at risk of poverty. Out-of school care for children between five and 12 years can help address the social, economic and health issues that disadvantaged households face and can support the social integration of excluded groups. It enables parents to take up employment, improve their financial situation, balance their working and home lives, reduce their stress levels, boost their confidence and enhance their social interaction. Children benefit from such care directly.

Working poor - in a job and still not enough to get by

Data from the EU-SILC survey for 2007 shows that, in the EU27, the disposable income of 8% of those aged 18 and over in employment - more than 15 million people - is not enough to lift them out of poverty. In Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Spain, for example, more than one in every 10 employed persons are in the 'working poor' category. Younger workers are more at risk of in-work poverty: 9% of workers aged between 18 and 24 years are poor, as against 8% of those aged 25-54 years, and 7% of 55-64 year-olds. Moreover, younger women are at higher risk than men: 10% of women aged 18-24 years are at risk, as against 9% of men of the same age. In most countries, poverty-reduction policies aim to reduce poverty and social exclusion in general but are not targeted to combat in-work poverty specifically. Governments, social partners and civil society could do more to raise the profile of the issue of in-work poverty, and create harmonised policies to tackle it. Effective policies to combat in-work poverty and, ultimately, poverty in general remain to be devised.