Social inclusion

03 July 2019

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 and is one of five key targets of the EU’s framework policy Europe 2020. Yet, since the crisis, the share of people at risk of social exclusion has increased. Social exclusion and growing inequalities have emerged as major concerns in many countries. While social exclusion has mainly been considered in terms of risks for poverty, the extent to which people feel included in society and participate actively in family, neighbourhood or social activities is directly relevant. The European Commission’s 2017 reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe raises a number of questions on how to create more unity within our societies. 
 
The EU Youth Strategy 20192027 is all 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.

Eurofound’s work

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

Key contributions

EQLS survey data

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. 

Young people and NEETs

Youth unemployment rose sharply since the crisis. Although improvements are now being registered, 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. 

A recent 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 recent EU strategies aimed at promoting the social inclusion of these vulnerable young people, focusing in particular on the operation of the Youth Guarantee in 10 Member States to combat youth unemployment. Access to jobs is not an option for all young people so the report 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.

Older people and volunteering

A study by Eurofound on volunteering by older people in the EU focuses on initiatives mainly at the local level that succeed in involving older people, particularly those at higher risk of social exclusion, as volunteers. This research looks at how volunteering in old age may be a tool not only to promote social inclusion of the older population but to improve quality of life for all generations. 

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, the latest estimate putting 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

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

Data and resources

Ongoing work

  • Flagship report on quality of life and public services
  • Household composition and well-being
  • Mapping developments in advisory for household debt in EU countries as well as identifying barriers to access these services to combat poverty and assessing take-up
  • Analysing differences and inequalities in access to social services of general interest in the EU and assessing the nature and extent of convergence/divergence
  • Report on regional convergence and inequalities, which investigates evolutions of social imbalances (e.g. unemployment, social exclusion, poverty) at the regional level and examines the relationship between growth, regional disparities and interpersonal inequalities 
     

 

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