Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

External relations

Social ministers from several countries, including the EU, pose for a photo in front of flags for each respective country

The European Commission works with international organisations, countries and civil society to:

  • promote sustainable social and economic development and decent work beyond the EU's borders in line with EU values, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals
  • foster fair globalisation including through contributing to the adoption and supervision of international labour standards and inclusion of labour provisions in EU trade arrangements and their follow-up
  • help prepare candidate countries and potential candidates for EU membership

The European Commission works to ensure that employment and social aspects are taken into account in the EU's external policies. Through its trade, development cooperation, neighbourhood policies and the external dimension of its internal policies, the Commission focuses in particular on sustainable development and decent work.

International organisations and forums

The European Union works with and within the ILO, OECD, UN as well as with and within the G20, G7 and other international organisations and forums in order to:

  • promote decent work for all
  • promote the social dimension of globalisation
  • implement the external dimension of European policies


The EU has developed a long-standing, strategic relationship with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Our cooperation promotes decent work and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. EU-ILO cooperation focuses on promoting fundamental principles and rights at work, including in trade, and on other social policy areas.

The EU carries out joint projects with the ILO and contributes to its work, together with EU Member States, in particular through EU statements.


The EU is fully involved in the G7. The first formal meeting of G7 labour and employment ministers (together with development policy ministers) took place in 2015 under the German G7 Presidency. G7 initiatives in social affairs include:

  • Vision Zero Fund, to help improve decent work and occupational safety and health in global supply chains, for which the Commission provides financial support
  • G7 Future of Work Forum, to discuss the future of work
  • Ministerial meetings and follow-up commitments in technical groups, including the new G7 Employment Task Force, where DG EMPL prepares the EU’s participation and contributions


The EU is a full member of the G20. G20 employment ministers came together for the first time in 2010 in Washington and have held yearly meetings ever since. G20 initiatives in social affairs include:

Year-long discussions between senior officials and in working groups also take place under the Employment Working Group (EWG), where DG EMPL represents the EU. The EWG follows up on the implementation of its members’ G20 Employment Plans, including that of the EU.

Prospective new EU members (Enlargement)

The EU aims to improve the social dimension in the seven candidate countries and potential candidates to join the EU by supporting, negotiating and monitoring the development of employment and social policies in line with EU standards, and criteria for accession.

The Commission conducts an economic governance process with these countries, based on their annual economic reform programmes.

DG EMPL is particularly involved in the alignment of legislation of candidate countries with the following chapters of EU law:

The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) is the means by which the EU supports reforms in the candidate and potential candidate countries' with financial and technical help.

DG EMPL has managed IPA I (2007-2013) funds dedicated to human resources development for Turkey, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Croatia (until accession in 2013). Its programmes are now in the closing phase. IPA II (2014-2020) is managed by DG NEAR.

Other neighbouring countries

The EU works together with neighbouring countries on employment and social issues through the European neighbourhood policy and regional initiatives such as:

The European Commission works with these countries through agreements, exchange of good practices, and supporting concrete actions. This cooperation aims to promote:

  • better working conditions and labour relations
  • effective social dialogue and labour market institutions
  • employability and youth employment
  • adequate and sustainable social protection.

Developed countries and emerging markets

Cooperation takes the form of:

The purpose of these dialogues and cooperation is to promote mutual understanding and exchange evidence, experiences and practices.

Trade and sustainable development

EU trade policy aims to ensure that economic development goes hand in hand with social justice, respect for human rights, high labour standards, and high environmental standards. To this end, modern EU trade agreements contain rules on trade and sustainable development.

The EU works to ensure trade policy helps promote sustainable development through:

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