Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Social protection & social inclusion

The European Union supports and complements the Member States' activities in the fields of social inclusion and social protection.

This encompasses a broad range of policies to combat poverty and social exclusion, modernise social protection systems and promote the social inclusion of specific groups, including children, persons with disabilities and homeless people.

Policy framework

European Pillar of Social Rights

The European Pillar of Social Rights sets out 20 key principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and social protection systems. The Pillar represents the beacon guiding the EU towards a strong social Europe that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunities in the 21st century.

The third chapter of the Pillar covers for principles most relevant to social protection and inclusion.

European Pillar of Social Rights - Action Plan

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan seeks to turn the Pillar principles into concrete actions to benefit citizens.

The Action Plan put forward three 2030 targets in the areas of employment, adult education and poverty, building on the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The 2030 poverty target aims at reducing the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 15 million by 2030, out of which at least 5 million children.

In a joint Porto Social Commitment of May 2021, the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Parliament, the Portuguese Prime Minister holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU at the time, the European social partners and civil society organisations signed up to the three 2030 headline targets. The targets were also welcomed by the June 2021 European Council.

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan also announced a number of initiatives to support the implementation of the Pillar principles. 

In the area of social protection and inclusion, relevant initiatives include:

  • the Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, 
  • proposal for a Council Recommendation on minimum income,
  • a European Platform on Combating Homelessness,
  • an EU report on access to essential services, an initiative on long-term care,
  • a High Level Expert Group to study the future of the welfare state,
  • a guidance on the use of ex ante distributional impact assessment.

Policy Monitoring and Coordination

Social Scoreboard

To monitor the implementation of the Pillar, an updated Social scoreboard was put forward by the European Commission in the beginning of 2021 and endorsed by the Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs of the European Union in June 2021.

The Social scoreboard reflects the Pillar structure and contains a dedicated set of indicators in the area of social inclusion and protection. The headline indicators include the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion – the indicator used for the 2030 poverty target.

European Semester

The European Semester is a well-established framework to coordinate economic, employment, and social reforms and investments.  Since 2018 the Pillar principles have been mainstreamed across the entire European Semester cycle

The Joint Employment Report and the country reports contain dedicated analysis of the social situation in the EU and the Member States. National challenges and proposed solutions in social policies are reflected in the Country-specific Recommendations.

Social Protection Committee

The Commission works together with EU countries through the Social Protection Committee using the Open Method of Co-ordination in the areas of social inclusion, health care and long-term care and pensions (social OMC).

The social OMC is a voluntary process for political cooperation based on agreeing common objectives and measuring progress towards these goals using common indicators. The process also involves close co-operation with stakeholders, including Social Partners and civil society.


The implementation of the policy reforms are supported by the European structural and investment funds, in particular the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Share this page