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Promoting social cohesion and convergence

Promoting social cohesion and convergence is one of the six main activities in Eurofound’s work programme for the 2021–2024 period. Eurofound will continue to operate as a centre of expertise for monitoring and analysing the key trends and determinants of achieving upward convergence in living and working conditions and strengthening economic and social cohesion in the EU. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to the economic and social resilience of the EU, highlighting the fragility of any progress in convergence patterns already achieved.


Recent updates


In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Daniel Molinuevo about the European Child Guarantee, how bad the situation is with regard to child poverty...


Key policy messages

The main findings emerging from Eurofound research serve as input for policymakers to address some of the key issues in this area.

  • Sustainable economic and social convergence is central to Europe’s lasting stability and requires an integrated European approach.
  • Diverging economic and social performance among Member States puts shared prosperity and decent living and working conditions at risk and therefore monitoring convergence trends in the EU and implementing policies to avoid divergence is essential.
  • Before COVID-19, Europe had experienced six years of uninterrupted economic growth, absorbing the fallout of the 2008 crisis and recording upward convergence in areas like employment and risk of poverty. But not all Member States benefited equally and regional disparities grew.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic risks further widening the inequalities between Member States and across socioeconomic groups. It will test the economic and social resilience of Member States against the risk of economic and social divergence in the European Union. These growing disparities can also impact on the stability of the EU and underline the need to implement fully the European Pillar of Social Rights and to communicate these measures clearly to EU citizens.
  • Maintaining citizens’ trust in national and European institutions must remain a key focus in times of crisis, as compliance with measures to control COVID-19 greatly depends on levels of trust in institutions and scientific advice. The increase in levels of institutional trust reported by respondents who benefited from support measures also sends a clear message to national governments and the EU.

2021–2024 work plan

During 2021–2024, Eurofound will provide an important insight into the challenges and prospects in the area of social cohesion and convergence in the EU, helping to ensure its economies and societies are resilient to future shocks. Eurofound will expand on its work from previous years on the upward convergence theme, with particular emphasis on the potential rise of new inequalities among citizens and how to address the increased challenges to social cohesion brought about by the crisis. The Agency will report regularly on trends in upward convergence in the socioeconomic dimension, as well as in the dimensions outlined in the European Pillar of Social Rights at Member State and regional levels, while also comparing the EU with other developed countries.

In exploring the drivers and implications of economic and social convergence, Eurofound will pay attention to a range of factors: social investment, mobility and institutional frameworks, regulation, welfare systems, institutional quality and public servicessocial dialogue and structural reforms. The research will examine the effectiveness of the EU’s response to the pandemic for economic and social convergence. It will also consider the situation in the euro area, as well as focusing on the role of industrial relations processes in influencing convergence.

Eurofound will investigate the trends and drivers of social cohesion in the European Union, in particular examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated existing inequalities or triggered new ones affecting society more broadly or specific groups of citizens. The analysis will focus on economic, social and health disparities, both in the labour market and in terms of access to and quality of crucial goods and services such as healthcare, housing, education and social protection. The link between inequalities, institutional trust and discontent will be studied. Other areas of interest include migration, integration and societal tensions.

The research results emerging from this activity will contribute to the work of the different services of the European Commission and the Employment Committee (EMCO), the Social Protection Committee (SPC), the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC), the Council and the European Parliament, including in relation to the European Semester.

Addressing stakeholder priorities

Eurofound’s research aims to assist policy action to support sustainable upward economic and social convergence, to reduce multidimensional inequalities and to develop initiatives to strengthen social cohesion, helping to address the challenges facing the EU and national levels brought about by COVID-19. By investigating the pandemic recovery programmes at European level and their effect on economic and social convergence, Eurofound aims to inform policymakers on ways to promote convergence and the effectiveness of various initiatives. Research on social cohesion is intended to advance the debate on ways to promote policies towards a fairer and more inclusive society.

The Agency’s work programme is aligned with the European Commission’s political guidelines over the next four years, directly feeding into a number of key policy areas aimed at creating a strong social Europe. In particular, the research links in with the EU objective of sustainable economic and social convergence and will seek to support the debate on the European Pillar of Social Rights, its implementation and monitoring role, as well as on the reform of Economic and Monetary Union. Findings on trust can contribute to the initiatives regarding the Future of Europe debate.


Eurofound research

In 2024, Eurofound continues to study upward convergence towards better working and living conditions and stronger economic and social cohesion. The focus is on the potential rise of new inequalities and how to explain and address the increased challenges to the social cohesion of the EU brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Eurofound continues to report on the latest trends in and drivers of upward convergence in the socioeconomic dimension by updating and maintaining its dashboard of indicators and by providing regular annual updates at Member State and regional level.

Building on previous work on income inequalities and on the middle classes, research concludes on trends in this area, shedding light on the impact of the increased cost of living on different income groups, including the middle class, and households.

Eurofound provides new evidence on the role of human capital in inequalities across the EU, in particular its role in ensuring social cohesion and convergence. Alongside exploring stocks and flows of human capital across Member States, the study offers an insight into the role of education as a driver of economic and social convergence. 

New evidence also sheds light on the emerging challenges and opportunities arising from the high inflow of Ukrainian refugees to the EU, focusing on integration efforts at EU and national level, as well as the impact on public services.

A new project on the role of digitalisation complements Eurofound’s work on convergence and inequalities. This research analyses the long-term trends in the uptake and usage of digital technologies by EU citizens and the progress made by Member States in fulfilling the targets set in their recovery and resilience plans. It also assesses if digitalisation is a driver of economic and social convergence in the EU, with a focus on income, employment and poverty.

Building on previous work in 2019 and drawing on newer data, Eurofound aims to identify changes in overall wealth distribution during recent years and produce a more detailed account of the size and composition of the population with no or negative wealth, and of the asset composition of the wealth quintiles.

New research also examines the dynamics of social cohesion, polarisation in perceived trust in institutions and satisfaction with democracy in Europe. This analysis explores social developments that can lead to tensions, withdrawal or radicalisation, and the main dimension of the polarisation in European societies over the last decade. Looking at the 2024 European elections, the research investigates new forms of inclusive participation and their possible effect on polarisation.

Key outputs


Eurofound's 2024 work programme is set in the context of the upcoming European elections, war in Ukraine, renewed Middle East conflict and rising cost of living across the EU.

23 January 2024
Work programme

Eurofound expert(s)


Massimiliano Mascherini has been Head of the Social Policies unit at Eurofound since October 2019. He joined Eurofound in 2009 as a research manager, designing and coordinating...

Head of Unit,
Social policies research unit

Eleonora Peruffo is a research officer in the Social Policies unit at Eurofound. She works on topics related to upward convergence and social cohesion in Europe. During 2021–2022...

Research officer,
Social policies research unit
Publications results (38)

This report examines trends in income inequality in the EU and explores whether the middle class is becoming smaller due to disparities in household disposable income.

12 July 2024

This report investigates the political dimensions of social cohesion in Europe, offering a 20-year perspective derived from 10 rounds of the European Social Survey. It scrutinises trends and regional variations in political participation, examining correlations with levels of institutional distrust

26 April 2024

This report focuses on the challenges that the EU Member States and Norway face when receiving and integrating refugees who fled Ukraine after Russia’s invasion in February 2022. It investigates their labour market integration and access to and experiences with public services that are crucial for

28 March 2024

The urban-rural divide in EU countries has grown in recent years, and the depopulation of certain rural areas in favour of cities is a challenge when it comes to promoting economic development and maintaining social cohesion and convergence.

18 October 2023

The European Child Guarantee was established in 2021 to ensure that children in need have access to a set of key services. This policy brief analyses trends and disparities in children’s access to early childhood education and care, education, healthcare, nutrition and housing.

21 September 2023

This report investigates the social groups whose attachment to the labour market may be unstable and who are most likely to have non-standard working arrangements, and the implications of such arrangements, and job insecurity, for workers’ well-being, social exclusion, trust, perception of fairness

29 August 2023

This report explores the dynamics of the environmental performance of the EU Member States and the extent to which the disparities in their performance have narrowed since the early 2000s. The report is a product of cooperation between Eurofound and the European Environment Agency, with the

03 August 2023

In responding to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the EU activated its Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) for people who fled the country, allowing them to settle in the EU and to access basic public services and the labour market. By spring 2023, more than 4.5 million people had made use of the TPD

14 June 2023

The year 2022 opened with cautious optimism. Europe was emerging from two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with NextGenerationEU setting out a plan for a recovery that builds a strong and sustainable future. The Russian attack on Ukraine early in the year changed the situation dramatically, however

04 May 2023

Historically, the political debate around EU convergence has gathered momentum in the aftermath of a crisis. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the purpose of this report is to take stock of the last two decades of convergence trends. The study begins with an empirical investigation of economic

22 March 2023

Online resources results (3)

In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Daniel Molinuevo about the European Child Guarantee, how bad the situation is with regard to child poverty and social exclusion in Europe, what Member States have committed to doing about it, what the implicatio

1 May 2024

Twin transition and pandemic challenge Eurofound to increase expertise, strengthen partnerships, expand reach, says new Director

Eurofound welcomed Ivailo Kalfin to his new role as Executive Director on 1 June. After one month in the job, he reflects on the challenges facing the EU, how they will impact on the work of Eurofound and his priorities for shaping the Agency over the next five years.

Monitoring Convergence in the European Union. Joint Meeting of the Social Protection Committee Indicators Sub-Group and the EMCO Indicators Group, 13 March 2018, Brussels, Belgium. Presentation by Massimiliano Mascherini, Senior Research Manager, Eurofound.

13 March 2018
Blogs results (8)

Years of crises have eroded citizens’ trust in institutions. Without it, the very fabric of our democracy is at risk.

The state in which the EU finds itself has been described as a ‘permacrisis’, whereby the Union is confronted by challenge after challenge, and citizens are constantly having to adapt to a ‘new normal’.

11 December 2023

Child poverty and exclusion in the EU is on the rise. To address this worrying trend, EU policy needs to focus on access to services, which requires improving data collection, targeting inequalities and involving the workforce that delivers services in policymaking.

24 October 2023
Image of people waiting for tram in city street and man cycling on cycle path

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions have caused energy prices to soar. Governments seeking to alleviate the negative impacts of price increases on households have introduced energy subsidies and VAT reductions for electricity, gas and fuel. While such policies may be needed

10 June 2022

When it comes to Europe’s COVID-19 recovery and its aspiration to build back a more resilient society, the so-called green and digital transitions have dominated EU policy discussions. And as Eurofound made preparations for the 2022 Foundation Forum – a unique occasion for high-level debate on the s

11 March 2022

The exponential growth of COVID-19 cases across Europe this autumn has quickly erased hopes that the virus had been contained and confirmed the surge of another wave of the pandemic. With Member States now implementing new restrictive measures for the second time since March in an attempt to control

23 October 2020

The votes have been cast, tallied and declared and we can now see the political landscape of the new European Parliament. It is a complex picture: there has been growth of far-right and populist parties, but well short of what was projected, and at the same time there has been a boost for pro


When EU Heads of State or Government gather in Gothenburg this week to debate fair jobs and growth, it will be the first such ‘social summit’ in 20 years. At the heart of the agenda of this high-level gathering will be the formal proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights – 20 principles

14 November 2017
Upcoming publications results (2)

The focus of this report is on the role that human capital plays in determining inequalities across the EU, as well as within Member States. Using Cedefop’s work in this area, the report provides a comparative analysis of national trends in education and lifelong learning, including differences betw

August 2024
Data results (3)


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