“Social investment is key if we want to emerge from the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive. Within existing budget constraints, Member States need to shift their focus to investment in human capital and social cohesion. This can make a real difference if we want to make real progress towards the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Social Investment today helps to prevent Member States having to pay a much higher financial and social bills tomorrow" declared László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Social Inclusion.
The social consequences of the current financial crisis are very serious. The Social Investment Package, just presented by the Commission, gives guidance to Member States on more efficient and effective social policies in response to the significant challenges they currently face. These include high levels of financial distress, increasing poverty and social exclusion, as well as record unemployment, especially among young people. These are combined with the challenge of ageing societies and smaller working age populations, which test the sustainability and adequacy of national social systems.
The Social Investment Package includes a Commission Recommendation against child poverty, calling for an integrated approach to child-friendly social investment. Investing in children and young people is especially effective in breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and social exclusion and improving people's opportunities later in life.
The Social Investment Package is integrated policy framework which takes account of the social, economic and budgetary divergences between Member States. It focusses on:
- Ensuring that social protection systems respond to people's needs at critical moments throughout their lives. More needs to be done to reduce the risk of social breakdown and so avoid higher social spending in the future.
- Simplified and better targeted social policies, to provide adequate and sustainable social protection systems. Some countries have better social outcomes than others despite having similar or lower budgets, demonstrating that there is room for more efficient social policy spending.
- Upgrading active inclusion strategies in the Member States.. Affordable quality childcare and education, prevention of early school leaving, training and job-search assistance, housing support and accessible health care are all policy areas with a strong social investment dimension.
The Social Investment Packages is based on an analysis of data (e.g. the 2012 Employment and Social Developments in Europe Review – see IP/5/13) and existing good practices which demonstrate that Member States with a firm commitment to social investment – that is, benefits and services that strengthen people's skills and capabilities – have lower rates of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion, higher educational attainment, higher employment, lower deficits and higher GDP per capita.
The Social Investment Package consists of a Communication setting out the policy framework, concrete actions to be taken by Member States and the Commission and guidance on the use of EU funds to support reforms. It is accompanied by:
- A Commission Recommendation on 'Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage' containing an integrated policy framework to improve children's opportunities
- A Staff Working Document (SWD) containing evidence on demographic and social trends and the role of social policies in responding to the social, economic and macro-economic challenges the EU is facing
- A Staff Working Document following up on the 2008 Commission Recommendation on Active Inclusion for people excluded from the labour market
- The 3rd Biennial Report on Social Services of General Interest to help public authorities and stakeholders understand and implement the revised EU rules on social services
- A Staff Working Document on Long Term Care, presenting challenges and policy options;
- A Staff Working Document on confronting homelessness, explaining the situation of homelessness in the European Union and possible strategies to consider;
- A Staff Working Document on Investing in Health, containing strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health systems and discussing how health can contribute to social inclusion; and
- A Staff Working Document outlining how the European Social Fund will contribute to implementing the Social Investment Package.
The Social Investment Package builds upon the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion and complements other recent Commission initiatives to address Europe's social and economic challenges, namely the Employment Package, Youth Employment Package and the White Paper on Pensions. These initiatives have given Member States additional guidance on national reforms needed to honour commitments to the agreed Europe 2020 targets.
For more information: Colette Fitzgerald, European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, Tel: 028 9024 0708, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.