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Social policies

European social policies aim to promote employment, improve living and working conditions, provide adequate social protection and combat social exclusion. These policies are generally the competence and responsibility of the EU Member States but the European Pillar of Social Rights gives new momentum to initiatives at European level. 


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From January to June 2022, Eurofound supported the work of France's presidency of the Council of the EU, providing valuable research results on specific topics linked with the presidency priorities.

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The various economic and social shocks of the past decade and a half – most recently the COVID-19 pandemic – have ongoing consequences for the living standards and prospects of...

19 December 2023
Policy brief

Eurofound research

Eurofound links its research to the policy priorities formulated by the European institutions and social partners. The Agency’s research findings show how policies are working out in practice, what approaches have been shown to work, and indicate how policies can be made more effective.

Living conditions and quality of life

Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) provides a fairly comprehensive picture of living conditions and helps depict new or emerging risks that can inform the social policies of the future. EQLS 2016, the fourth survey since 2003, looks at the situation around work and family life, health and care services, education, living standards, as well issues around social tensions and social inclusion. 

Largely based on EQLS data, Eurofound produces a series of policy briefs from each survey on a range of topics providing background information and policy pointers for all actors and interested parties engaged in the current European debate on the future of social policy. Topics based on data from the EQLS 2016 include: 

  • What makes capital cities the best places to live?
  • Is rural Europe being left behind?
  • Age and quality of life: Who are the winners and losers?
  • Social and employment situation of people with disabilities
  • Social insecurities and resilience
  • Social cohesion and well-being in the EU
Read more in our publication series: European Quality of Life 2016


EU PolicyWatch

Eurofound’s EU PolicyWatch database gathers together measures introduced by governments and social partners to respond to the social and economic effects of recent crises on businesses, workers and citizens. It includes policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the rise in inflation. It also includes policies supporting the digital and green transitions, as well as those to support companies and workers affected by restructuring. 


Research on vulnerable groups

Other social policy research has examined a range of measures aimed at improving the situation of vulnerable groups. In particular, Eurofound has carried out extensive research on policies targeting young people, particularly those aged 15–29 who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs), long-term unemployed youth, as well as young people with disabilities or health problems. Research has also focused on issues affecting older people, including innovative solutions around income and retirement. Additional studies have looked at access to early childhood care, home-care services, and care homes for older Europeans. Research has also examined equal opportunities and social mobility in Europe and measures to promote employment opportunities for economically inactive persons, while evidence on in-work poverty has been assessed.

Key outputs


With the European Green Deal, the EU is setting in motion a set of policies and measures aimed at preventing and alleviating the effects of climate change. The main objective...

6 July 2021
Research report

This report explores the distribution of household wealth in the EU Member States and analyses the role of wealth in social mobility. Using data from three datasets (the Household Finance...

30 March 2021
Research report

EU context

The European Pillar of Social Rights, endorsed in November 2017, is built upon 20 key principles, structured around: equal opportunities and access to the labour market; fair working conditions; and social protection and inclusion. On 4 March 2021, the European Commission presented its action plan to fully implement the Pillar, turning the principles into concrete actions to benefit EU citizens, while also supporting the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It outlines three EU-level targets to be achieved by 2030 and that will help to steer national policies and reforms:

  • At least 78% of the population aged 20 to 64 should be in employment by 2030
  • At least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year
  • The number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion should be reduced by at least 15 million by 2030, including at least 5 million children

Implementation of the Pillar largely depends on the actions of the Member States, who primarily hold responsibility for employment, skills and social policies. The Commission supports Member States in achieving these targets by providing guidance and coordination of national economic and social policies via the European Semester process, including related country-specific recommendations, in order to strengthen employment and social policies and to invest in social services and social infrastructure.

In the social policy area, in June 2021, the Commission launched a European Platform on Combating Homelessness and in September 2022, presented a new European Care Strategy, including an initiative on long-term care and the revision of the Barcelona targets. Also in 2022, it put forward a proposal for a Council Recommendation on minimum income. It has also launched in 2021 a high-level expert group to study the future of the welfare state.

The European Social Policy Analysis Network (ESPAN), set up by the Commission in 2014, provides independent information, analysis and expertise on social policies. The principles in the Social Pillar provide an extensive basis for development of new initiatives. 

Eurofound’s work on social policies links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on a European Green Deal. 


Publications results (345)

The various economic and social shocks of the past decade and a half – most recently the COVID-19 pandemic – have ongoing consequences for the living standards and prospects of Europeans, and sometimes these outcomes have been uneven across age groups. Social policies – such as those in the areas of

19 December 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 addresses the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on social services in the EU. While the pandemic negatively affected social services, it nevertheless provided lessons on how to adapt them in response to new challenges and social risks. One lesson, for instance, is that policies should be dev

16 August 2023

Unaffordable housing is a matter of great concern in the EU. It leads to homelessness, housing insecurity, financial strain and inadequate housing. It also prevents young people from leaving their family home. These problems affect people’s health and well-being, embody unequal living conditions and

30 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

The COVID-19 pandemic had varying impacts on social groups, depending on existing disadvantages, and it was widely believed that it triggered a rise in inequalities across different areas of life. Using indicators from the EU’s Multidimensional Inequality Monitoring Framework (MIMF), this report

24 January 2023

The Living, working and COVID-19 survey, first launched by Eurofound in early 2020, aims to capture the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic on the work and lives of EU citizens. The fifth round of the Eurofound survey, which was implemented in spring 2022, also sheds light on a new uncertain reality

07 December 2022

In collecting information on essential services, the European Commission requested Eurofound to provide input on certain aspects of existing and planned measures in the Member States to improve access to essential services in reference to Principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. For

07 September 2022

Digitisation and automation technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), can affect working conditions in a variety of ways and their use in the workplace raises a host of new ethical concerns. Recently, the policy debate surrounding these concerns has become more prominent and has

30 May 2022

The European Union Agencies Network on Scientific Advice (EU-ANSA) consists of technical and regulatory agencies that provide scientific advice to EU policymakers. This report demonstrates how EU-ANSA member Agencies are addressing the socioeconomic effects of sustainable development. It is based on

05 January 2022

Online resources results (326)
Image of a group of cyclists crossing at a street junction.

Facing up to the social realities of the green transition

The European Green Deal binds the European Union to becoming a climate-neutral territory by 2050. As part of this, the European Climate Law (June 2021) commits the EU to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% (compared with 1990 levels) by 2030. To achieve this, a fundamental transformati

In this episode Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Senior Research Manager Hans Dubois on the issues that feed into housing insecurity in Europe, and the actions that need to be taken to address them. Together, they analyse findings from Eurofound’s recent Unaffordable and inadequate housing in Eu
15 June 2023

Solidarity with Ukraine and support for the Ukrainian people is unwavering

Today, 24 February 2023, marks one year since Russian forces began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, starting a war of aggression that has spread death and destruction. It also marks one year of resolute Ukrainian resistance.


First responses to cushion the impact of inflation on citizens

Although the worldwide pandemic situation had already disrupted supply chains and triggered increases in energy and food prices in 2021, the situation deteriorated in 2022 with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Governments throughout the EU had already started to intervene with policy measures in a


Policies to support EU companies affected by the war in Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine has intensified, the cost of food, raw materials and energy prices, already high due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has continued to rise substantially. Ahead of coordinated action at EU level, as agreed by EU energy ministers on 9 September 2022, governments across the EU have


Policies to support refugees from Ukraine

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the mass immigration of refugees into the EU – over 5 million to date, according to the UNHCR – has put European societies under pressure. EU and national-level policymakers together with civil society reacted quickly to accommodate the waves of fleeing Ukr


Have your say on reinforcing social Europe

The European Commission continues to consult on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, with a focus on assessing the EU social acquis, reflecting on new trends in work patterns and societies, and getting feedback on the outline of Pillar itself. Eurofound has generated a wealth

EU Level: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

Endorsement of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission’s Directive on working conditions, the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment, and fourth Eurocadres congress are the main topics of interest in this article. This update reports on the latest developments in working

Finland: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

New measures to help the unemployed find work and greater support for working families against a backdrop of governmental crisis, and the merger of industrial trade unions are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in

EU level: Latest working life developments – Q1 2017

Issues related to the European Commission’s proposal on the European Pillar of Social Rights, as well as some developments in social dialogue at EU level, are the main topics of interest in this article. This update reports on the latest developments in working life at EU level in the first quarter

Blogs results (11)

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

Spiralling housing costs are causing despair across the EU. The situation is making people anxious that they will lose their accommodation or become homeless; they may become overburdened financially or forced to live in substandard accommodation; and many young people are unable to leave home

4 April 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

The European Pillar of Social Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to affordable long-term care services of good quality, in particular home-care and community-based services’. Taking a step to make this principle a reality, the European Commission is currently preparing a European Care

5 May 2022

In this blog, originally posted in Social Europe, Massimiliano Mascherini looks at the enduring issue of long-term unemployment among young people. Despite considerable improvement in the labour market participation of youth in recent years, the legacy of the crisis is still visible in the

17 April 2018

Equality of opportunity and upward social mobility are important aspects of the European social model. Until quite recently concerns about rising inequalities were often countered by assurances about protecting social mobility, and the assertion that an individual’s status is mainly down to their

26 April 2017

In this article, originally posted in Social Europe Journal, senior programme manager Greet Vermeylen highlights why making work sustainable is an important issue for Europe.

16 December 2016

There are limits to the effectiveness of member states’ pension reforms. Europe, it’s often said, is experiencing a worsening ageing crisis. European governments grappling with this and the related unsustainability of many pension schemes have taken measures to keep older workers longer in

26 September 2016

Most discussions on the future of work are dominated by the impact of key changes in society, such as the digital revolution and demographic changes. These changes raise various issues of concern, sometimes suggesting contradictory trends such as labour shortages linked to an ageing population, or

25 July 2016

This article, originally posted in Social Europe, is based on a comprehensive overview of surveys on the working life experiences of LGBT people in the EU. 17 May is International day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face distinct

17 May 2016


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