Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Poverty and social exclusion


With more than 120 million people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion, EU leaders have pledged to bring at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020. The fight against poverty and social exclusion is at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Key challenges

Today, EU countries are far from reaching the 2020 target and the worsening social situation caused by the economic crisis is undermining the sustainability of social protection systems.

Millions of Europeans are still on the side-lines, both from the labour market and from social inclusion and integration. Their numbers are increasing, as witnessed by the statistics from 2011:

  • 24% of all the EU population (over 120 million people), are at risk of poverty or social exclusion – this includes 27% of all children in Europe, 20.5% of those over 65, and 9% of those with a job
  • Close to 9% of all Europeans live in severe material deprivation - they do not have the resources to own a washing machine, a car, a telephone, to heat their homes or face unexpected expenses
  • 17% of Europeans live on less than 60% of their country's average household income
  • 10% of Europeans live in households where no one has a job
  • There is a wide gap in performance between the welfare systems in different EU countries - the best reduced the risk of poverty by 60%, the least effective by less than 15% (EU average 35%)
  • 12 million more women than men are living in poverty in the EU
  • Specific populations such as the Roma are especially challenged: two-thirds are unemployed, one in two children attends kindergarten and only 15% complete secondary school.

Policy responses

The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion is a broad umbrella, covering a wide range of policies, designed to help reach the 2020 target.

It provides the basis for a joint commitment among national governments, EU Institutions and key stakeholders to fight poverty and social exclusion, focusing on the policy objectives set out in the Social Investment Package.

Stakeholder participation

In the framework of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion the Commission organises regular EU Stakeholder Dialogue meetings with NGOs, social partners, businesses and social economy actors, academics, foundations, think tanks and international organisations to ensure that they are involved in developing and implementing policy initiatives to combat poverty and social exclusion. These stakeholders in turn reach out to national stakeholders and regional and local authorities.

The Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion provides a valuable opportunity for dialogue between policy makers, key stakeholders and people who have experienced poverty. Its objectives are:

  • to take stock of progress made towards the Europe 2020 target
  • to review the implementation of the Platform actions
  • to provide suggestions for future actions.

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