EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Social Policy Agenda

Social policy is a key strand of EU policy and the European Commission has initiated successive social policy agendas over the past decade. Its Social Action Programme ran from 1998 to 2000 and was followed by its Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005, further to which the Commission established a High-Level Group to identify the main challenges and opportunities facing the European Union over the period 2006-2010 in the field of employment and social policy. The findings of this group contributed to the development of the next Social Policy Agenda, which ran from 2006 to 2010 under the Lisbon Strategy. The three main challenges facing the European Union that the group identified were: enlargement, the ageing of the population and globalisation and the Social Policy Agenda 2006-2010 focused on providing jobs and equal opportunities for all and ensuring that the benefits of the EU’s growth and jobs drive reach everyone in society. By modernising labour markets and social protection systems, it aimed to help people seize the opportunities created by international competition, technological advances and changing population patterns, while protecting the most vulnerable in society.

In July 2008, the Commission adopted a renewed social agenda, covering the final years of the Lisbon Strategy. This agenda contained 19 initiatives in the area of employment and social affairs, concentrating on: children and youth; managing change; supporting longer and healthier lives; fighting discrimination; strengthening legal instruments; shaping the international agenda; and combating poverty and social exclusion.

The Lisbon Strategy came to an end in 2010 and was followed by the Europe 2020 Strategy, which contains a range of targets in the employment and social policy field.

The three flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy that fall under the areas of employment, social affairs and inclusion are:

  • Youth on the move which aims to improve young people's chances of finding a job by helping students and trainees gain experience in other countries, and improving the quality and attractiveness of education and training in Europe;
  • An agenda for new skills and jobs which aims to give fresh momentum to labour market reforms to help people gain the right skills for future jobs, to create new jobs and overhaul EU employment legislation; and
  • European platform against poverty and social exclusion which aims to bolster work at all levels to reach the agreed EU headline target of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty and exclusion by 2020.

In July 2011, a report on the social dimension of the Europe 2020 Strategy examined actions to promote inclusion and reduce poverty, in line with the strategy’s headline targets. The report concentrates on actions in the areas of sustainable and adequate reforms of social protection systems, active inclusion strategies, well-designed universal and targeted benefits for families and groups at risk, future pension adequacy and long-term financial sustainability of pensions, and increased effectiveness of health care and long-term care.

See also: Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers; Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; open method of coordination; social competences; social objectives.


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