Commission issues joint report on social inclusion

A draft joint European Commission/Council report examining the progress of EU Member States in combating social exclusion and poverty was published in October 2001. The report is part of the EU's strategy to eradicate poverty, based on the 'open coordination' method, which involves the setting of common objectives, the drawing up of regular national action plans by the Member States, and the review of these plans by the Commission and Council.

The European Commission issued a draft joint Commission and Council of Ministers report on social inclusion in October 2001. The 204-page document presents an overview of the current poverty and social exclusion situation in the European Union and sets out what the Commission sees as the key challenges for the future. This overview is based on a Commission analysis of Member States' national action plans against poverty and social exclusion, which were drawn up in 2001 for the first time and will be produced every two years in future. This is part of the EU strategy to combat social exclusion, identified as one of the social policy goals of the EU in Articles 136 and 137 of the Treaty establishing the European Community. At the Lisbon European Council summit, held in March 2000 (EU0004241F), it was agreed that an impact on the eradication of poverty should be made by 2010 and that the 'open method of coordination'- comprising common objectives, national action plans and a joint Commission/Council report (a process which also forms the basis of the European employment strategy) - should be used for this purpose.

The joint report's key findings include the fact that 18% of the EU population – over 60 million people – are at risk of poverty and around half of these are living in long-term poverty. Poverty is defined as living below a threshold of 60% of median national income.

The risk factors which increase the danger of poverty are identified by the report as including: long-term unemployment; low-quality employment; low levels of income in the long term; low levels of qualifications and leaving school early; being in a family vulnerable to social exclusion; disability; poor health; drug abuse and alcoholism; living in a disadvantaged area; homelessness and precarious housing; and immigration, ethnic background and risk of racial discrimination. It also warns that the changing nature of society – particularly the changing nature of the labour market, demographic changes, family break-up and the changing nature of the role of men and women – may increase the risk of poverty and social exclusion for vulnerable groups.

The report then goes on to list eight key challenges which Member States are addressing to varying extents, as follows:

  • developing an inclusive labour market and promoting employment as a right and opportunity for everyone;
  • guaranteeing an adequate income and the means to enable a decent standard of living;
  • tackling educational disadvantage;
  • preserving the family and protecting children's rights;
  • ensuring reasonable housing for everybody;
  • guaranteeing equal access to and investing in high-quality public services;
  • improving the delivery of services; and
  • regenerating areas of 'multiple deprivation'.

The Commission highlights the Netherlands, Denmark and France as particularly good examples of countries which are tackling these issues.

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