The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is an opportunity to focus on the serious consequences of the current economic crisis on the levels of inequality, poverty and the risk of social exclusion not only in the world as a whole but also in one of its richest regions, Europe.
Today is a reminder that approximately 120 million people, one out of four EU citizens, are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. And that 26.5 million Europeans are still jobless, with 5.5 million of them under the age of 25, even if the unemployment rate has stabilised in the last months.
A reminder that divergences have increased between and within EU countries, with labour markets more and more polarised between high and low-income jobs.
Poverty is against European values of solidarity and dignity and potentially undermines the democratic functioning of our societies, nourishing extremism and populism. In the current context and more than ever, effective social systems that continue to invest in people and social cohesion are necessary.
This is the aim of the Social investment Package , presented by the European Commission in February 2013. It calls on Member States to strengthen social investment while preserving the social protection and stabilisation functions of our social systems. It highlights the need for well-designed income support to protect people at critical moments throughout their lives, and the importance of investing in children and young people to break the cycle of disadvantage people over different generations can get trapped in.
For the period 2014-2020, the Commission has proposed that at least 20 per cent of total European Social Fund resources in each Member State should be used for promoting social inclusion and combating poverty. Furthermore, the future Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will serve to complement the existing instruments of EU social cohesion policy, helping Member States to provide food, clothing and other essential goods to the most vulnerable groups, such as homeless people and children experiencing poverty.
In the current context, the EU target of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty and exclusion by 2020 remains far from being reached. The European Platform against poverty and social exclusion, launched by the European Commission in 2010, reviews regularly progress made towards this target, and will take stock of prominent actions at its third annual convention, next 26-27 th November. The meeting will address the implementation of the Social Investment Package through wider partnerships.
Within the framework of strengthening the social dimension in the EMU, the Commission called upon the Member States to elaborate and strengthen policy instruments to anticipate and address problematic developments and challenges related to employment and social policies in the euro-zone where the tools to absorb asymmetric shocks are not available.
Despite current difficulties, we must pursue the common efforts to eradicate poverty. To improve employment potential and social cohesion prevent increasing disparities and will be the key to reach a stronger, more competitive and more cohesive Europe.