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Social inclusion

Social inclusion is a process that ensures citizens have the opportunities and resources necessary to participate fully in economic, social and cultural life and to enjoy a standard of living and well-being that is considered normal in the society in which they live. It encompasses, but is not restricted to, social integration or better access to the labour market, and also includes equal access to facilities, services and benefits. It is a concept that is now central to the European policy agenda.


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...


Eurofound research

Eurofound monitors social inclusion through its survey work and, in more specific studies, it explores and evaluates policy efforts to achieve greater social inclusion.

Social inclusion and quality of life

Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) provides a means to monitor and assess outcomes of social progress, such as well-being and social inclusion. A range of data can complement the social indicators used to monitor policy outcomes, such as those of the European Social Scoreboard, which accompanies the Social Pillar. 

Young people and NEETs

Although youth unemployment has recovered in recent years, some EU countries still have stubbornly high youth unemployment rates. Young people, especially those not in employment, education or training (NEETs), are at high risk of social exclusion, with severe consequences both for the individuals themselves and also for the economy and society as a whole. Eurofound has looked into how the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted young people. 

A Eurofound study on long-term unemployed youth shows how long-term disengagement dramatically affects several dimensions of young people’s well-being, with long-term impacts. It decreases overall life satisfaction and, importantly, increases the risk of social exclusion, while also decreasing optimism about the future.

Research on the social inclusion of young people looks at the disadvantages arising from being outside the labour market or education. It explores EU strategies aimed at promoting the social inclusion of these vulnerable young people, focusing in particular on the operation of the Youth Guarantee to combat youth unemployment. Access to jobs is not an option for all young people so the study also looks at measures to promote engagement in social and civil activities.

Other young people with a disability or other health problem are at high risk of becoming NEET and face difficulties for social and economic engagement. Research has looked at active inclusion policy for these young people in a number of EU Member States.

Living conditions of older people

Eurofound research on the impact of COVID-19 on the living conditions of older people and their care needs looks at factors affecting social inclusion and quality of life. Its looks at volunteering, caring activities, social interaction and loneliness. 

Working poor

Being in work reduces the risk of poverty and social exclusion. However, Eurofound research on in-work poverty in the EU has highlighted that the ‘working poor’ are a substantial group, with around 10% of European workers at risk of poverty. The working poor face significantly more social problems than the population as a whole, such as lower levels of subjective and mental well-being, problems with accommodation, as well as poorer relationships with other people and feelings of social exclusion. 

Other vulnerable groups

Research has also examined the groups within the inactive population that find it difficult to enter or re-enter the labour market and why. It looked at strategies in the Member States to promote the inclusion of those economically inactive groups that fall outside the labour market and those with household debt problems.

Key outputs


Following a long recovery from the economic crisis (2007–2013), young people in the EU proved to be more vulnerable to the effects of the restrictions put in place to slow...

9 november 2021
Research report

This report addresses the problem of household over-indebtedness, which is broadly defined as being unable to make payments related to regular commitments.

12 maart 2020
Research report

Demographic change, social progress and economic cycles have impacted household composition in Europe. This report provides an overview of household types in the European Union, how they have changed over...

19 december 2019
Research report

EU context

Social inclusion is at the core of the European Social Model and European values enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. It is a cornerstone of the European Pillar of Social Rights and a priority of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Promoting social inclusion, in particular through the reduction of poverty, is at the heart of creating a more equal and cohesive society. Preserving and creating new jobs is also essential for social inclusion and active participation in society. On 4 March 2021, the European Commission presented its action plan to fully implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, turning its principles into concrete actions to benefit EU citizens, while also supporting the recovery from the impact of COVID-19. Chapter 3 of the Social Pillar focuses on 10 principles to promote social protection and inclusion.  To reduce inequalities, the Commission proposes a new target for the EU to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 15 million by 2030, including at least 5 million children.

The European Child Guarantee, adopted in June 2021, aims to ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education. 

The EU Youth Strategy 20192027 is about 'engaging', 'empowering' and 'connecting' young people and aims to foster the participation of young people in democratic life, support their social and civic engagement and ensure that they have the necessary resources to take part in society. The policy emphasis has been on promoting youth employment as the key pathway to achieving social inclusion, via measures such as the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative.

The risk of becoming socially excluded is rising among older people in some countries and among some of those who have left the labour market. Long-term unemployment and job insecurity are leading to increasing inequalities and poverty risks among many older Europeans. In searching for measures promoting the social inclusion of the older population who have already left the labour market, more attention is being paid to measures encouraging volunteering, supporting social engagement in old age and healthy ageing.

European Industrial Relations Dictionary 

Eurofound expert(s)


Hans Dubois is a senior research manager in the Social Policies unit at Eurofound. His research topics include housing, over-indebtedness, healthcare, long-term care, social...

Senior research manager,
Social policies research unit
Publications results (79)

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 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

De COVID-19-pandemie heeft, al naargelang de bestaande achterstanden, uiteenlopende gevolgen gehad voor de verschillende groepen in de samenleving. Algemeen wordt ervan uitgegaan dat de ongelijkheid als gevolg van de pandemie op verschillende terreinen is toegenomen. Aan de hand van indicatoren van

24 January 2023

De enquête “Leven, werken en COVID-19”, die begin 2020 door Eurofound werd gelanceerd, is bedoeld om de brede impact van de pandemie op het werk en het leven van EU-burgers in kaart te brengen. De vijfde editie van de Eurofound-enquête, die in het voorjaar van 2022 werd gehouden, werpt ook licht op

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

Na een lang herstel van de economische crisis (2007-2013) bleken jongeren in de EU kwetsbaarder voor de gevolgen van de beperkingen die zijn ingesteld om de verspreiding van de COVID-19-pandemie te vertragen. Jongeren liepen meer kans dan oudere leeftijdsgroepen op verlies van hun baan, financiële

09 November 2021

The EU strives for the upward convergence of its Member States, where their performance improves and gaps between them decrease. Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, the COVID-19 crisis has again put this objective under pressure. This policy brief focuses on convergence in material well-being

08 December 2020

The uneven impact of the 2008–2013 economic crisis on Member States brought upward convergence to the fore in EU political debates. The focus was on orienting social policy towards getting the EU back on track, as encapsulated in the European Pillar of Social Rights. However, the meaning of the conc

30 September 2020

This report addresses the problem of household over-indebtedness, which is broadly defined as being unable to make payments related to regular commitments.

12 March 2020

Online resources results (18)

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 mei 2024

Slovakia: latest working life developments Q2 2018

An increase in wage supplements, easier access for people from countries outside the EU to join the Slovak labour market and new legislation for social enterprises are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovakia in

Italy: Social partners approve measure to tackle poverty

The Italian government has introduced a policy measure to tackle poverty called Income for Inclusion, which has been broadly welcomed by the social partners as being a step towards the social and economic activation of people in poverty.

Bulgaria: Studies highlight rising poverty in households

Bulgaria is Europe’s poorest country, according to a report by Catholic charity Caritas, which asserts that almost one-half of Bulgarians (48%) are living in poverty. Another study by the think-tank IME claims that domestic policies fail to effectively target those most in need in Bulgaria.

Report on poverty and social exclusion

Four years of economic growth and declining unemployment have only slightly reduced poverty and social exclusion in France. This is the conclusion of an official report, issued in March 2002, that also highlights the fact that these phenomena have affected specific social groups and areas of the

Equality is Qualityawards recognise good practice

In January 2002, the winners of Portugal's annual 'Equality is Quality' prize, awarded by the tripartite Commission for Equality in Work and Employment, were announced. The prize is designed to reward good practices by employers in promoting equality of opportunity for women and men. In 2002, the

Government presents first report on poverty and wealth

On 25 April 2001, the German government presented a report entitled /Living conditions in Germany – the first governmental report on poverty and wealth/ (Lebenslagen in Deutschland – Der erste Armuts- und Reichtumsbericht der Bundesregierung [1]). In presenting this report, the government fulfilled

Restructuring in multinationals hits employment in Portugal

April 2001 saw the latest in a series of announcements of job losses in Portugal, following the restructuring of multinational companies involving closures and relocation. The redundancies have affected sectors such as textiles and clothing (Têxteis Proteu and C&J Clark), steel (Siderurgia Nacional)

Child labour in Italy analysed

In November 2000, the Cgil trade union confederation published the findings of a survey, which estimates that child labour involves around 370,000 minors in Italy. The study identifies the causes of the problem in factors such as economic poverty and cultural backwardness, and finds that child

IG Metall launches fair share campaign for fairer wealth distribution

On 6 October 2000, the IG Metall metalworkers' union launched a campaign () [1] in favour of a fairer distribution of wealth. The overall aim of this campaign is to launch a broad public debate on the existing distribution of wealth and poverty in Germany. During the coming months, IG Metall plans

Blogs results (4)

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 oktober 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. Whil

4 april 2023

In-work poverty increased during the economic and financial crisis that hit European shores in 2008. By 2014, ten per cent of European workers were at risk of poverty, up from eight per cent in 2007. Ten per cent is a significant figure: the working poor represent a substantial group that can’t be i

13 oktober 2017
Upcoming publications results (1)

This report analyses data from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS), the Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey and official statistics to examine employment trends, working conditions and social inclusion challenges experienced by young people in the Western Balkans (Alba

November 2024
Research report
Data results (3)


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