Europe 2020 headline indicators
Data extracted in August 2020.
This article presents a statistical view of the Europe 2020 strategy of the European Union (EU), aimed at creating a smarter, greener and more inclusive economy and society. Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, has created nine headline indicators to monitor progress towards the strategy targets.
The Europe 2020 strategy
The Europe 2020 strategy, adopted by the European Council on 17 June 2010, was the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for the 2010-2020 decade. It emphasised smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as a way to overcome the structural weaknesses in Europe’s economy, improve its competitiveness and productivity and underpin a sustainable social market economy.
The key objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy were expressed in the form of five headline targets at EU level: 
- Increasing the employment rate of the population aged 20-64 to at least 75 %.
- Increasing combined public and private investment in R&D to 3 % of GDP.
- Climate change and energy targets:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 % compared to 1990 levels.
- Increasing the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption to 20 %.
- Moving towards a 20 % increase in energy efficiency.
- Reducing school drop-out rates to less than 10 % and increasing the share of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary education to at least 40 %.
- Lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The EU headline targets had been translated into national targets, as defined in the National Reform Programmes. These reflected each Member State’s situation and the level of ambition they are able to reach as part of the EU-wide effort for implementing the Europe 2020 strategy.
In 2019, 73.9 % of the EU population aged 20 to 64 were employed, up from 73.2 % in 2018. This is the highest share that has been observed since 2002. As a result, the distance to the Europe 2020 employment target of 75 % has narrowed to 1.1 percentage points.
Despite women becoming increasingly well-qualified and even out-performing men in terms of educational attainment, their employment rate has remained lower than that of men. However, the gender employment gap has narrowed for all age groups since 2002 and in 2018 it stood at 11.4 percentage points.
Gross domestic expenditure on research and development (R&D)
R&D expenditure in the EU stood at 2.11 % of GDP in 2018, compared with 2.08 % in 2017. The EU’s R&D intensity rose slightly between 2008 and 2012 and has stagnated around 2 % of GDP since then. This means that in 2018, the EU was still 0.89 percentage points below its target for 2020, which calls for increasing combined public and private R&D expenditure to reach the target of the 3 % of GDP.
By 2018, emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) across the EU had fallen by 23.2 % compared with 1990 levels, which means that the Europe 2020 target of reducing GHG emissions by 20 % by 2020 has been reached.
Between 2004 and 2018, the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption more than doubled, reaching 18.0 % in 2018. Therefore, the EU remains 2.0 percentage points below the Europe 2020 renewable energy target of 20 %.
The EU has also made progress towards its energy efficiency objective, although the trend has reversed since 2014. The 2020 target for final energy consumption was reached temporarily in 2014, but a subsequent increase in consumption means an additional 3.4 % fall is now required by 2020. With respect to primary energy consumption, the EU must achieve a further reduction of 4.4 % by 2020 to reach the Europe 2020 target of increasing its energy efficiency by 20 %. In 2018, the EU consumed 10.4 % less primary energy than in 2006, but 2.6 % more than in 2014. Energy efficiency policies have helped achieve reductions in primary energy consumption, but some of the reductions can also be attributed to lower economic output in the aftermath of the economic crisis and relatively warm years, such as 2013 and 2014.
Tertiary educational attainment and early leavers from education and training
The share of early leavers from education and training  has fallen continuously since 2002, both for men and women. In 2019, the indicator stood at 10.3 %, compared with 14.7 % in 2008. Thus, Europe is steadily approaching its 2020 headline target to achieve an early leaving rate of below 10 %, although the trend has stagnated over the past few years.
The share of 30- to 34-year-olds who have completed tertiary education has also increased, reaching 41.6 % in 2019. This means the Europe 2020 target of 40 % has been achieved. However, the tertiary attainment rate for men is 10.1 percentage points lower than for women.
The Europe 2020 strategy aims to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 20 million by 2020, compared with the 2008 level . The development of risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU over the past decade has been marked by two turning points: in 2009, when the number of people at risk started to rise because of the delayed social effects of the economic crisis and in 2012, when this upward trend reversed. In 2018, 109.9 million people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU-28, which was 6.2 million below 2008 levels. Still, 21.8 % of the population in the EU remained at risk in 2018 — 13.8 million more than foreseen by the Europe 2020 target. Significant additional efforts are thus necessary to reinforce the recent positive trend and close this gap.
Monetary poverty was the most widespread form of poverty in 2018, with 86.0 million people (17.1 % of the EU population) living at risk of poverty after social transfers. The second most common dimension of poverty was very low work intensity, affecting 32.4 million people or 8.8 % of the EU population (aged 0 to 59 years). The third form of poverty or social exclusion — severe material deprivation — affected 29.7 million people in 2017 or 5.9 % of the EU population. People may be simultaneously affected by two or more forms of poverty, but are nevertheless only counted once for the headline indicator.
- Towards robust quality management for European Statistics - Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council COM(2011) 211 final.