Great news: growth is back in Europe! The continent’s economy is experiencing its highest growth in a decade and employment in Europe is at record levels.
This was the major message included in the European Commission’s recent “country reports” which analyse the economic and social trends in 27 of the 28 EU Member States (Greece has its own reporting mechanism). They are well worth a look at. In its overarching assessment, the European Commission expresses very positive news for the European economy. It also re-affirms that the current “favourable conditions have opened a window of opportunity to further strengthen the foundations of Europe’s economies”.
The foundations of Europe’s economies are the structures which enable all people to participate and be active citizens in life. It means investing in our welfare, education, healthcare and housing systems. Most importantly, it means investing in people. The last decade has weakened these foundations; with cutbacks throughout the European Union. The economy may certainly be back on track, but its foundations are shaky and investment into more inclusive economies is needed. The European Commission acknowledges this when arguing that “sustainable and inclusive social protection systems are central to mitigating the impact of economic shocks”.
Our social protection and welfare systems should be more than just a “social parachute” in case the economy goes wrong. They are the way in which we can make our economic growth more sustainable and inclusive. This is also the case for the European Pillar of Social Rights, which goes beyond the strict concept of social protection to also include social empowerment.
Social services are pivotal in achieving this more sustainable and inclusive economic growth. For example, with an ageing population, Europe has no choice but to make additional efforts to ensure that all have access to the labour market; including and especially those who have traditionally been excluded from it. Employment services dedicated to the support needs of disadvantaged persons are crucial to achieving more inclusive labour markets. To do so, they also need adequate investment and supportive policies. This is not just a question of social rights, it is also a question of smart economics.
This is what EASPD -together with our members- will work on in 2018: identifying barriers & developing constructive solutions with the goal to make the European economy more inclusive and therefore more sustainable.
Investment Policy Advisor at EASPD