Coordinated EU approach can mitigate social impact of the crisis
Social policies can help mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on the most vulnerable in Europe and on the economy as a whole, while paving the way for recovery.
The 2009 'Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion', to be discussed by Employment Ministers on 9 March, focuses on the contribution of social policies in responding to the crisis, and on Member States' renewed strategies for delivering on shared EU social objectives. The report will contribute to the Spring European Council on 19-20 March.
This year's report looks at the role of social policies in an economic downturn. It also assesses the renewed national strategies which Member States presented in autumn 2008 as part of the Open Method of Coordination in the field of social policies. The report highlights the following areas on which to focus future efforts:
- EU coordination of social policies can cushion the impact of the economic crisis and help recovery, by continuing long-term reforms balanced with short-term measures aimed at preventing job losses and sustaining household incomes.
- The European Social Fund should be used to its full potential in a flexible and timely way to alleviate the social impacts of the crisis, by supporting rapid labour market re-entry for the unemployed and focussing on the most vulnerable.
- Comprehensive strategies for 'active inclusion' – that combine and balance measures aimed at inclusive labour markets, access to quality services and adequate minimum income – need to be implemented.
- Continued efforts are needed to reach the Lisbon target of a 50% employment rate for older workers to ensure long term adequacy and sustainability of pension systems.
- Member States need to step up their efforts to improve value for money in the provision of healthcare and to reduce health inequalities, notably through increased attention to primary care, prevention, health promotion, better coordination and rational use of resources.
- Member States should continue to strive to establish and strengthen systems for quality long-term care, by creating a solid financing basis, improving care coordination and ensuring sufficient human resources as well as support for informal carers.
- Strong commitment is needed to succeed in decisively reducing poverty. The 2010 European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion will reaffirm this goal. Evidence-based target-setting at national level, strengthened quality and continuity of stakeholder involvement and better mainstreaming of social considerations can boost delivery. Sustained efforts to tackle child poverty, as well as the severe exclusion suffered by the most vulnerable groups including by homeless people and the Roma community are needed;
The Joint Report is accompanied by a set of 27 country profiles assessing the social situation and strategies for each Member State and by a Commission services working document which provides a more detailed thematic account of challenges and policy responses.