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Document 52002DC0089

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda

/* COM/2002/0089 final */


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda /* COM/2002/0089 final */



1. Introduction

2. The employment and social situation

3. The implementation of the Social Policy Agenda







4. Conclusion and future outlook

1. Introduction

The social policy agenda is the EU's roadmap for modernising and improving the European social model by investing in people and building an active welfare state. It should contribute to achieving the strategic objective defined at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000.

Its purpose is to respond to the common challenges the EU is facing and to ensure at the same time that full advantage can be taken of the new opportunities. Transposing the Lisbon objective - refined at subsequent European Council meetings - by establishing a dynamic and mutually reinforcing interaction between economic, employment and social policy is at the heart of this agenda.

The agenda should strengthen social policy as a productive factor as well as solidarity and social fairness. The promotion of 'quality' is a major driving force behind this agenda.

Both the European Parliament and the European Council underlined the importance of an annual scoreboard to keep track of the achievements and to verify the commitment and contributions from the different actors in executing this agenda.

The point of reference against which to measure progress is the Commission Communication [1] of June 2000 and the political orientations endorsed at the Nice European Council in December 2000. This is the second scoreboard outlining progress made so far.

[1] COM(2000)379 of 28/06/2000

This scoreboard complements the annual synthesis report to the Spring European Council in Barcelona with regard to the actions which are part of the Social Policy Agenda [2] .

[2] COM(2002)14 of 15/01/02

2. The employment and social situation

The employment growth in 2000 was the strongest one in the past decade. Nearly three million new jobs were created. It brought the employment rate up to 63.2% - 1% more than in 1999 - but still nearly 4% below the Stockholm intermediate target and 7% below the Lisbon objective for 2010. According to current estimates, employment should grow by 1.1% and the employment rate should reach 64% in 2001.

In the period 1998-2000, more full time jobs than part-time jobs were created. Full time jobs accounted for almost 70% of the net jobs created in 2000, up from 60% in 1999 and 54% in 1998.

The unemployment rate came down from 9.1% to 8.2% in 2000 and the number of unemployed people fell by 1.5 million - the largest decrease for a decade. It brought down the total number of unemployed people to a still very high level of 14.5 million. Long-term unemployment decreased faster than overall unemployment, reaching 3.6%. For 2001, the average unemployment rate is estimated at 7.7% for the EU-15, which corresponds to a decrease in the number of unemployed by almost one million, and to 8.4% for the euro area.

The results of structural reforms of European labour markets are becoming apparent in particular with respect to the increasing employment intensity of growth, stronger job creation in high-tech and knowledge intensive sectors - reflecting the move to a knowledge-based economy - and a strong inflow of women into the labour market. High-tech and knowledge-intensive sectors drove the recent job creation, contributing to more than 60% of total creation of 10 million jobs between 1995 and 2000. This benefited not only highly skilled workers, but also low and medium-skilled people employed in these sectors. More than 1.6 million of the new jobs were taken by women, whose employment rate grew from 52.8% in 1999 to 54% in 2000 and is estimated to have reached 54.7% in 2001.

However, there remain structural weaknesses in employment which call for continued and re-inforced attention:

* Low employment rate of older workers: an estimated 38.3 % in 2001 compared to the Stockholm target of 50% in 2010.

* Significant gender gaps: 18 % in terms of the employment rate, and 14 % in terms of pay.

* High levels of unemployment: some 8% of the labour force, of which 3.6% long term and over 16 % for young people

* Regional differences in employment and unemployment remain very high

For the short-term future, taking account of the weaker economic forecast for 2001 and 2002 [3], the EU economy would not offer the same supportive environment for improvements on the employment front. The depth and duration of the economic slowdown is yet uncertain, as is its precise impact on employment.

[3] e.g. Commission Economic Forecasts 2001-2003 - European economy; economic trends no 10/11 - 2001)

In its contribution [4] to the informal European Council of Gent in October 2001, the Commission presented an analysis of the economic slowdown, highlighting that all major regions in the world were already experiencing a slowdown before the dramatic events of 11 September in the USA. Despite strong fundamentals, the EU did not escape the slowdown and the impact on employment was already felt in the second half of 2000 in some Member States and to a varying extent in different sectors of the economy. The analysis was deepened in the Annual Synthesis report [5] to the Barcelona Spring European Council, highlighting the very different economic and political conditions that prevailed in March 2000 or even at the time of last year's Spring European Council. Nevertheless, evidence was provided showing that there are reasons for cautious optimism that the current downturn will be short-lived

[4] COM(2001)611 of 17/10/2001

[5] COM(2002)14 of 15/01/02

Nevertheless, towards the end of 2001, the economic slowdown had already brought to a halt the monthly fall in unemployment rates. These trends represent a challenge for active labour market policies to help the unemployed reintegrate to work and combat long-term unemployment. They also require commitment to the Lisbon strategy aimed at increased labour market participation, in particular of women and older workers.

In contrast with the generalised acceptance that the economic and employment situation has overall improved prior to 2001, the perception of trends in poverty and social exclusion is quite uneven across Member States.

Poverty and social exclusion continue to be widespread in the European Union but the extent and nature of the problem varies significantly between Member States. However, as there continues to be a problem of a lack of timely and comparable statistics, it is not possible to capture a full picture of recent trends. This also implies that it is difficult to assess the impact of the period of economic growth, decreasing unemployment and increasing employment in the second half of the past decade.

As far as income distribution is concerned, the data from the European Community Household Panel, presented as a structural indicator supporting the annual synthesis report, highlights significant inequalities in the distribution of income per person. The ratio for the highest-earning 20% of the income distribution to the lowest-earning 20% is 5.7 for the EU overall, a figure disguising big differences between Member States [6].

[6] See structural indicator IV.1 - distribution of income. Source: SEC(2002)29, annex 2 to the Commission staff working paper in support of the Report from the Commission to the Spring European Council in Barcelona.

Of particular concern is the still high proportion of people living on low incomes. About 18% of the population, or more than 60 million people, are at risk of poverty, living as they do below a threshold defined as 60% of the median equivalised income. Here again there is a considerable variation between Member States with the share of the population below the threshold ranging from 8% to 23% [7].

[7] See structural indicator IV.2.2 - risk of poverty rate after social transfers. Source: see previous footnote.

If it were not for social transfers - excluding pensions - 26% of the EU population would be living in poverty, as compared to the current 18%. This is one specific example illustrating the impact that the absence of social policy would have on European society [8]. Furthermore, when considering poverty and social exclusion, a particular concern must be the situation of people living on a low income over an extended period of time. 9% or about 30 million people were at a persistent risk of poverty, with a variation between Member States ranging from 3% to 15% [9].

[8] See structural indicator IV.2.1 - risk of poverty rate before social transfers. Source: see previous footnote.

[9] See structural indicator IV.3 - persistent risk of poverty. Source: same as previous footnote.

3. The implementation of the Social Policy Agenda

The Commission Communication of June 2000 outlined in annex 1 the Commission proposals and initiatives to be launched and a timetable. All initiatives announced for 2000 and 2001 have been presented and the preparations for major issues - such as the in-depth review of the European employment strategy and the new strategy on health and safety are well on track. The necessary initial steps have therefore been taken. Some initiatives have led to decisions, others are being negotiated.

Rather than presenting a detailed description of measures initiated by the Commission, the following survey presents a comprehensive overview of measures and achievements pointing out, where appropriate, the role of different actors. However, given that the Social Policy Agenda is still in a rather early stage of implementation, in which new initiatives have just been tabled and transmitted to other institutions and actors, these new measures make up a significant part of the scoreboard

The structure of this overview follows the political orientations on the social policy agenda endorsed at the Nice European Council.


Increasing active employment and combating long-term unemployment

The Lisbon European Council made of working towards full employment a key priority for the European Union [10]. The momentum of the Lisbon agenda, based on more and better jobs, was supported by the Stockholm European Council, when Heads of State and Government complemented the Lisbon targets with intermediate quantitative goals for 2005 as well as a specific target for older workers [11]. Member States were asked to define common approaches and indicators on quality in work. Several initiatives in favour of skills and mobility were called for. The Council and the Commission were invited to submit a Joint Report on how to increase labour force participation and promote active ageing.

[10] Targets agreed in Lisbon: raising the employment rate to as close as possible to 70% by 2010 and increasing the number of women in work to 60% in 2010, whilst taking into account the different starting points of the Member States.

[11] It specified the Community objective of reaching 67% for the overall employment rate and 57% for the employment rate for women by 2005. It also introduced the target of 50% as the employment rate for older persons (55-64) to be reached in 2010.

Quality in work

Quantity of work should not be opposed to quality of work. Concretely, the option chosen for the EU is to strengthen the quality of work as a contribution to increasing employment. This was evident in the Lisbon - 'more and better jobs' - and Stockholm political orientations and was also explicit in the Social Policy Agenda endorsed at Nice. A concrete proposal to take this forward was made in the Commission Communication of June on investing in quality and is incorporated into the guidelines for employment for the year 2002.

Following the report drawn up by the Employment Committee, the Council agreed on all key constituent parts of quality and the accompanying headline indicators as well as contextual indicators to allow monitoring change and measuring progress. However, more work is necessary. The socio-economic research programme, which encourages and supports research on the further development of indicators with a view to measure the quality of work, could play an important role here.

* Communication on investing in quality [12]

[12] COM(2001)313 of 20/06/2001

* Quality objectives incorporated into the Employment guidelines for 2002

* Quality indicators endorsed at the Laeken European Council

Strengthen and continue the co-ordinated strategy for employment

new employment package has been proposed by the Commission on 12 September 2001 and - after consultation of the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee - adopted by the Council on 3 December and presented to the Laeken Summit.

It emerged from the analysis of Member States employment policies in the Joint Employment Report 2001 that overall substantial progress has been achieved while some structural challenges still persist. The assessment of employment performances and of progress achieved in combination with a less favourable economic outlook, shows that structural labour market reforms should be pursued without complacency.

With respect to the four pillars of the Employment Strategy, the policy mix [13] remains tilted in favour of actions under the Employability Pillar, followed by the Entrepreneurship Pillar. Actions under the Adaptability and Equal Opportunity Pillars remain relatively weak. Although the partnerships between public authorities and social partners have developed, the specific contributions by the social partners are not always easy to identify. This is particularly the case for the adaptability pillar.

[13] In the context of the implementation of the Employment Guidelines, the term "policy mix" refers to the balance between the four pillars of the Guidelines.

Clear progress has been achieved in terms of developing lifelong learning, which is now an established policy priority throughout the European Union. Comprehensive lifelong learning strategies are now in place in about half of the Member States, but such strategies remain at an early stage of implementation. A weakness to be addressed is that few Member States set targets for increases in human resource investment or participation in further learning.

Progress in reforming benefit systems and incentives structures appears often insufficient to promote participation and the interaction between tax and benefit systems requires more attention.

A comprehensive approach on gender mainstreaming is lacking in most Member States. Measures to reduce the persistently high gender pay gaps are limited and there are hardly any new initiatives to promote women in decision making. Childcare services remain insufficient in many Member States and there is no clear approach yet to the issue of care for the elderly or other dependants.

As regards the Employment Guidelines for 2002, the Commission, supported by the other EU institutions, opted for ensuring continuity for the year 2002, in view of the substantial changes made in 2001 and the in-depth review planned in 2002. However, the Guidelines incorporate the new employment targets agreed at Stockholm as well as a new distinct horizontal objective on quality in work.

Furthermore, a set of Employment Recommendations have been addressed to Member States.

Substantial work was initiated in 2001, in close co-operation with national authorities, on an evaluation of the Employment Strategy, in order to prepare for the 5 year review of 2002.

Progress has also been reached in adopting a decision on Community incentive measures in the field of employment. A common position was adopted by Council in June 2001, taking into account the opinion of the European Parliament. The action programme is expected to be agreed shortly between the European Parliament and the Council.

The employment strategy is developed in relation to the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines. This underlines that economic and employment policy are mutually reinforcing.

Key measures

* Adoption of the Joint Employment Report 2001, the employment guidelines for 2002 and recommendations on employment policy. [14]

[14] COM (2001)438 of 12/09/2001

* Action programme on employment incentive measures (common position in June - EP second reading) [15]

[15] COM(2000)459 of 20/07/2000

The role of the European Social Fund

As recalled in the Employment Guidelines, the European Social Fund supports and complements the activities of Member States that underpin the development of their labour markets and their human resources, particularly in the context of the European Employment Strategy and the national action plans for employment. An overview of the programmes adopted during the year 2000 shows that more than half of the support during the programming period 2000-06 will be allocated towards employability, particularly with regard to promoting active labour market policies and preventing unemployment. A considerable amount is directed towards the adaptability of the labour force and the development of life-long learning concepts. The European Social Fund also promotes SME-oriented activities and provides leverage for business start-ups and job creation in the service sector. Finally, and in addition to the gender mainstreaming across all funded activities, specific actions are planned with regard to improving women's access and participation in the labour market.

The implementation of the programmes needs to be undertaken flexibly by the Member States, taking into account the changing circumstances under which the Employment Strategy is being pursued. One country has established continuous monitoring of the coherence between the national action plans and the European Social Fund programmes. This approach might be taken forward by other Member States in the context of their monitoring processes as foreseen in the new Structural Funds Regulation [16].

[16] Regulation 1260/1999, article 36.

Key measures

* Agreement with Member States on Community Support Frameworks and other programming documents for European Social Fund

* Adoption of 17 Operational Programmes for EQUAL

The local and regional dimensions of the employment strategy

Within the context of new and improved governance, specific attention has been given to boost the regional and local dimension of employment policy. Although the overall definition of the employment strategy is decided at European level, its formulation and successful implementation depends extensively on local actors. This requires the mobilisation of all resources available and needs the active support of regional and local authorities.

The reason this dimension is addressed is to ensure that the richness of experience and expertise at these levels can be widely shared. That is the reason why the Commission proposed the dissemination of best practices within and between Member States. It also proposed the development of local employment strategies, coherent with the National Action Plans and reflecting the priorities at local level.

Key measures

* Communication on Acting Locally for Employment - A Local Dimension for the European Employment Strategy [17]

[17] COM(2000)196 of 07/04/2000

* Communication on strengthening the local dimension of the employment strategy [18]

[18] COM(2001)629 of 07/11/2001

* Call for proposals under Art. 6 ESF to support projects on the development of local employment strategies [19]

[19] OJ C 306 of 31.10.2001

Employment and social dimension of the information society

Making a swift transition to the knowledge-based economy is an element central to the Lisbon strategy. The employment and social dimension has been addressed in a Benchmarking Report, which underlines the rapidly increasing impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on jobs, training and work organisation. Furthermore, an elearning action plan, designing tomorrow's education, has been put forward.

IT accreditation, a component of the overall e-Europe initiative, has been addressed by the High Level Group on the employment and social dimension of the information society; it identified the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) as one possible accreditation scheme and asked that the future direction of a European basic IT skills diploma should be further elaborated under the 'eLearning Action Plan' as envisaged there.

Key measures

* Communication on eEurope 2002 - Impact and Priorities [20]

[20] COM(2001)140 of 13/03/2001

* Benchmarking report following the Strategies for jobs in the information society [21]

[21] SEC(2001)222 of 07/02/2001

* Communication on the elearning action plan [22]

[22] COM(2001)172 of 28/03/2001


Moreover, a knowledge-based Europe requires new initiatives to facilitate mobility, in particular for teachers, researchers, training professionals and people undergoing training. These target groups have been addressed in a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on 10 July 2001 [23]. The Commission adopted also a Communication on a mobility strategy for the European Research Area [24]. At the end of February 2001 the Commission adopted a Communication on the New European Labour Markets, open to all, with access for all [25]. This initiative aims to remove barriers to mobility and to raise the skill levels of the European workforce at all levels. It led to the establishment of a Task Force on Skills and Mobility, the report of which will contribute to the development of an action plan on mobility to be put forward early 2002. With regard to skill development, also a work programme on the concrete objectives of education and training systems was presented [26].

[23] COM(1999)708 of 21/01/2000

[24] COM(2001)331 of 20/06/2001

[25] COM(2001)116 of 28/02/2001

[26] COM(2001)501 of 07/09/2001

These measures in the employment domain should be complemented by concrete progress with regards to the co-ordination of social security schemes. Council has made progress on the co-ordination of social security systems by adopting parameters for the modernisation of Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71. In terms of safeguarding additional pension rights for workers moving within the European Union, a committee has been established in July 2001 that is looking into supplementary pensions [27].

[27] C(2001)1775 of 02/07/2001

Key measures

* Creation of a Task Force on Skills and Mobility - its report of December 2001 will contribute to the development of an action plan on mobility to be put forward early 2002 [28]

[28] Creation of a Task Force on Skills and Mobility, following the Stockholm European Council and the Commission Communication

* Communication on lifelong learning [29]

[29] COM(2001)678 of 21/11/2001

* Adoption of parameters for the modernisation of Regulation 1408/71 on the co-ordination of social security systems [30]

[30] COM(1998)779 of 21/12/1998


Involving workers more in managing change

The final agreement by the Council on a Regulation establishing the European Company Statute and the Directive on the involvement of employees in such companies is a major achievement in 2001. It will be a crucial aspect in facilitating businesses to take better advantage of the internal market as it will improve organisational and management issues. In this sense, an important hurdle with regards to different sets of rules and procedures for businesses operating in the European Union has been taken. Specific rules have been agreed to lay down the involvement of workers in this new type of companies.

Furthermore, both Council and the European Parliament have adopted a Directive on establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community. Also, the Transfer Directive of 1977 and 1988 has been codified in 2001 [31]

[31] COM(2000)259

Key measures

* European Company statute and directive on the involvement of employees (agreed) [32]

[32] COM(1989)268 of 24/08/1989

* Information and consultation directive (agreed) [33]

[33] COM(1998)612 of 11/11/1998

* Support under Art. 6 ESF for 35 Innovative Measures concerning the adaptation to the new economy within the framework of the Social Dialogue [34]

[34] The list of those initiatives can be found at the following address : (reference VP/2001/005)

Health and safety at work

Occupational health and safety is a major part constituting quality in work and contributes to establishing a level playing field for businesses across the EU by complying with a uniform core set of minimum standards. These standards provide security for workers while helping businesses to reduce costs resulting from work related accidents and diseases through prevention.

The establishment of minimum standards guaranteeing a high level of protection and creating a level playing field implies a range of legislative measures.

Legislative work has been focused on four issues: scaffolding, asbestos, vibrations and noise. Furthermore, social partners have been consulted on health and safety for the self-employed.

Progress has been attained in reducing accidents at work over recent years and the overall number of serious accidents has fallen since the mid nineties, although not everywhere in the European Union. The overall decrease of accidents by almost 10%, for the period 1994-1998, shows the benefits of preventive measures and health and safety standards.

However, high incidence rates of accidents at work still remain very costly for Europe's competitiveness: almost 148 million working days were lost in 1998 and in 1999 each due to such accidents. In 1998, the incidence of serious accidents at work fell to 4.089 per 100.000 employees - still some 4,7 million accidents in total. There were also, in 1998, 5476 fatal accidents at work [35]. This figure shows the insufficiency of current occupational health and safety practices and hence the cost of non-social policy to businesses and workers.

[35] Accidents at work in the EU 1998-1999. Source: statistics in focus. Population and social conditions (16-2001)

Different patterns of sectoral composition of the economy and of occupational categories matter. Incidence of accidents at work is higher than the average in the fishing industry (2.4), agriculture (1.3), construction (1.4) and transports (1.1) and hits, in particular, men with less than secondary education, who concentrate in those sectors [36].

[36] Source: same as previous footnote.

Moreover, the rapidly changing world of work imposing new forms of work organisation together with increased rhythms and pace of work creates new problems and calls for new solutions. New types of risks emerge giving rise to new health problems involving musculosqueletal disorders and the so called psychosocial diseases like stress, depression and anxiety which represent 26% of the cases involving absence from work of more than two weeks [37].

[37] Work related health problems in the EU 1998-1999. Source: EUROSTAT statistics in focus. Population and social conditions (17-2001)

With a view to prepare the new health and safety strategy to be put forward in early 2002, the Economic and Social Committee adopted an exploratory opinion. This report - drafted jointly by representatives from employers, employees and other interests - provides an important basis for the new strategy highlighting how the European Union can respond to old and new risks at the workplace and explores how the different instruments available at European level can be combined to improve standards and practices throughout the European Union.

Key measures

* Scaffolding directive (adopted in June 2001) [38]

[38] COM(1998)678 of 27/11/1998

* Health and safety for self employed - second stage consultation of social partners (June 2001) [39]

[39] C(2001)1535 of 07/06/2001

* Vibrations directive (common position in June 2001 // EP second reading in October) [40]

[40] COM(1992)560 of 23/12/1992

* Noise directive (common position in October 2001) [41]

[41] COM(1992)560

* Asbestos directive (Commission proposal - July 2001) [42]

[42] COM(2001)417 of 20/07/2001

* Own initiative report by ESC on Health and Safety at the workplace [43]

[43] CES(2001)937 of 11/07/2001

Working environment and work relations

The European Monitoring Centre on Change has been established in 2001. Its task will be to gather and disseminate information on aspects of economic and social change resulting from shifts in technologies, work organisation, production and business models, and working practices.

Also a High-Level Group on industrial relations has been established. It focuses on the key challenges for industrial relations in a changing environment and devotes specific attention to future enlargement. This group will submit a report to the Barcelona Spring European Council outlining a set of proposals to help policy makers in Europe, in particular social partners, to effectively contribute to improve the process of change management. The social partners have treated, both in first and second stage consultation, the modernisation and improvement of employment relations and have consequently opened negotiations on telework, with a view to reach an agreement to be implemented through their national members, in accordance with Article 139 (2) of the EC Treaty. Guidelines on this issue have already been agreed in the telecommunications sector (February 2001) and in commerce (April 2001).

With regard to temporary agency work, the negotiations by the social partners did not lead to an agreement. The Commission will present a proposal for a Directive of the Council and European Parliament in the beginning of 2002, taking into account the outcome of the discussions by the social partners and in particular the aspects on which a consensus had emerged. It will also take account of the joint declaration of October 2001 made by the sectoral social partners for temporary agency work

In August 2001, the Commission launched the first stage consultation with the social partners on protection of employees data

Furthermore, the social partners are invited to contribute to the implementation of the European employment strategy, in particular the adaptability pillar.

Vocational training is a crucial element here. The social partners at interprofessional level are currently preparing a joint Report for the Barcelona European Council that zooms in on a set of key-actions including identifying and anticipating competencies needs; recognising and validating competencies; informing , supporting and providing guidance; and mobilising resources. The intention is to open subsequently negotiations on this issue.

Also at sectoral level the social partners are addressing vocational training, in particular through concrete joint projects.

In the legislative field, progress was made on the Commission's proposal for a Directive amending Council Directive 80/987/CEE on the protection of employees in the event of insolvency of the employer. The opinion of the European Parliament in first reading has been adopted on 29 November 2001 and the Council reached a political agreement on a common position on 3 December 2001. In order to prepare the Communication and the action plan on the financial participation of employees and in order to facilitate a wide-spread consultation on this issue, the Commission published a working paper in July [44].

[44] SEC 2001 (1308) of 26/07/2001

Also a Communication on the social aspects of public procurement was adopted by the Commission.

* Creation of the European monitoring centre on change

* Contribution by the social partners to the implementation of the employment strategy

* Adaptability and modernisation of industrial relations in connection with the Employment Strategy -second stage consultation of social partners leading to negotiations on telework - started in October 2001

* Insolvency - common position in December 2001 [45]

[45] COM(2000)832 of 15/01/2001

* Communication interpreting social aspects of public procurement [46]

[46] COM 2001 (566) of 15/10/2001

Corporate social responsibility

A Europe wide debate and exchange of good practice has been boosted as a result of the Green Paper on promoting a European framework for corporate social responsibility. Although it is entirely based on voluntary action, businesses have shown a great interest in taking forward and strengthening their own social responsibility - to their workers and to the environment in which they are located. It is a crucial aspect for implementing sustainable development and better articulating economic, social and environmental imperatives, in particular in light of the requirements made by consumers.

* Green Paper on corporate social responsibility [47]

[47] COM(2001)366 of 18/07/2001


The Lisbon European Council Conclusions stated explicitly that 'the number of people living below the poverty line and in social exclusion in the Union is unacceptable'. It called explicitly for steps to be taken to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010. Although, it fell short of putting forward commonly agreed targets, Lisbon set out the first measures which should guide the efforts to step up EU co-operation on policies for combating poverty and social exclusion. It also stated explicitly that the 'open method of co-ordination' should be the appropriate basis for such policy co-operation.

Social inclusion strategy -the open method of co-ordination

This politically major breakthrough was further developed within the Social Policy Agenda, in particular the commitment to present by June 2001 a national action plan for the following two years. The objectives of the strategy to which these plans respond have been endorsed by the Nice European Council [48]. They address the complex and multi-dimensional nature of poverty and social exclusion and mobilise a wide range of policies. Four key objectives have been identified;

[48] Political agreement by the Council on 17 October 2000.

* to facilitate participation in employment and access by all to the resources, rights, goods and services

* to prevent the risks of exclusion

* to help the most vulnerable

* to mobilise all relevant bodies.

The joint report on social inclusion provides an in-depth analysis of the situation in all Member States, an assessment of the key challenges for the future and an identification of the good practice and innovative approaches of common interest. Based on the national action plans against poverty and social exclusion that were submitted by all Member States in June 2001, and in the light of the four common objectives, the report is the first policy document by the Commission and the Council to tackle poverty and social exclusion at the scale of the EU, and is therefore a landmark in strengthening the European social model. It also provides a demonstration of the feasibility of the open method of co-ordination in the social area and of the potential of the peer group review method, crucial to the full implementation of this strategy.

Significant progress has also been made with regard to developing and refining commonly defined and agreed indicators in the field of social inclusion. Moreover, a five year action programme (2002-2006), will promote the improvement of understanding and measurement of poverty and social exclusion, the exchange of information and good practice and the networking between relevant organisations through a range of actions for which 75 million euro will be available. Moreover, such actions will facilitate the active involvement of non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders that can play a crucial role in implementing this strategy. The action programme provides a policy-focused initiative which complements the scientific research on social exclusion and social integration which the European Community's socio-economic research programme is supporting.

Key measures

* The open method of co-ordination has been successfully launched in the field of social inclusion.

* the agreement on common objectives reached in the European Council of Nice,

* the development of commonly agreed and defined indicators under the aegis of the Social Protection Committee,

* the preparation and submission by all Member States of two year National Action Plans against poverty and social exclusion

* the Joint Report on Social Inclusion by the Commission and the Member States identifying good practice and innovative approaches of a common interest [49]

[49] COM(2001)565 of 10/10/2001

* the decision of the Council and the Parliament establishing a five year Community action programme to combat social exclusion. [50]

[50] COM(2000)368 of 16/06/2000

These are important starting points but actions will need to be intensified and further policy efforts will be required over the next few years if a decisive impact is to be made on poverty and social exclusion.

The digital divide

Prevention of social exclusion and poverty calls for measures to ensure access to new technologies. A digital divide would create new obstacles and barriers to full participation in the labour market and society. On the other hand, information technologies provide opportunities to dismantle certain existing barriers. In addition to the ongoing work within the context of both the European employment strategy and the open method of co-ordination on social inclusion, the Council adopted a Resolution on e-inclusion, hereby stepping up political efforts and addressing the challenges identified in a Commission document on the potential of the information society for social inclusion.

Key measures

* Communication on eEurope 2002 - Impact and Priorities [51]

[51] COM(2001)140 of 13/03/2001

* eInclusion - The Information society's potential for social inclusion in Europe [52]

[52] SEC(2001)1428 of 28/09/2001

* Council Resolution of 8 October 2001 on "e-Inclusion" - Exploiting the opportunities of the Information Society for social inclusion [53]

[53] 'e-inclusion' - Exploiting the opportunities of the Information Society for social inclusion'

Combating all types of discrimination

Social fairness requires respect for fundamental rights and combating discrimination. These are essential components of an equitable society and respect for human dignity. The Social Policy Agenda emphasised this strongly, in particular with regards to setting legislatively binding common standards.

This is clearly visible in the two directives based on Article 13 of the EC Treaty -anti-discrimination article and which must be transposed by 2003. Promoting awareness and undertaking concrete action to further non-discrimination is supported through the action programme the Council and the European Parliament agreed, making nearly 100 million Euro available for a six year period. This programme also contributes to ensuring the active involvement of civil society.

Key measures

* Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin [54]

[54] COM(1999)566 of 24/11/1999

* Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation [55]

[55] COM(1999)565 of 25/11/1999

* Decision establishing a Community action programme to combat discrimination [56]

[56] COM(1999)567 of 25/11/1999

Integration policy for third country nationals

In addition to the European employment strategy, and its focus on equal access to the labour market, and the social inclusion strategy, an important breakthrough was reached on extending the co-ordination of social security schemes to third-country nationals by the Council conclusions on the legal basis for the extension of Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 to this category of persons. The Laeken European Council called on the Council to adopt the necessary provisions as soon as possible [57].

[57] See point 29 of the Presidency conclusions of the Laeken European Council

The Commission proposed also a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of paid employment and self-employed economic activities.

Key measure

* Agreement on legal basis for the extension of Regulation 1408/71 on the co-ordination of social security schemes to third country nationals [58].

[58] COM(1998)779 of 21/12/1998

* Proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of paid employment and self-employed and self-employed economic activities. [59]

[59] COM(2001)386 of 11/7/2001

Integration of disabled people

In order to increase awareness about disability and further the integration of disabled people in the economy and reinforce their opportunities to fully participate in society, the Year 2003 is declared the European Year of people with disabilities. Drawing attention to disability and exchanging experience and good practice should be instrumental in taking forward the policy measures in the context of the European employment strategy and the social inclusion open method of co-ordination.

Key measure

* Decision on the European Year of People with Disabilities [60]

[60] COM(2001)271 of 29/05/2001

Efficient partnership

Fighting poverty, exclusion and discrimination are by definition policy domains where a wide range of actors should be fully involved in the design and implementation of measures. In this sense, it is a domain in which the notion of better governance, driven by an active participation of a wide range of actors at all levels and a shared responsibility should fully apply. It requires openness, transparency; effectiveness, coherence and accountability. It will also show the commitment to respect different cultures and traditions.

The involvement of civil society is based on a broad definition and encompasses a broad range of actors, in particular NGOs, regional and local authorities, trade unions and employers organisations.


Also on the modernisation of social protection, the Lisbon European Council made an important political breakthrough by outlining that the common challenges can be better addressed as part of a co-operative effort. The political orientations of Nice emphasise that the modernisation of social protection systems must meet the requirements of solidarity, notably with regards to retirement and health care, while contributing to an active welfare state that encourages employment participation.

Co-operation for secure and viable pension

The first issue concerns pension systems. This is the domain where a modernisation of systems is made urgent by demographic ageing and its impact on the old-age dependency ratio. Without measures - notably aimed at raising employment participation, consolidating public finances and adapting social protection systems - pensions may become financially unsustainable in the future and hence unable to meet their social objectives.

Although the reform of pension systems remains the responsibility of the Member States, co-operation at European Union level has intensified - in particular though the Social Protection Committee and has benefited from the work undertaken by the Economic Policy Committee and its analysis of the projected budgetary impact of ageing. At the Gothenburg European Council, the potential of the open method of co-ordination was emphasised and the Laeken European Council agreed the objectives to which national reports are to respond.

These common objectives for sustainable pension systems stress the need to maintain adequate pension provision and solidarity in pension systems, to secure financial sustainability through a high level of employment, sound management of public finances and appropriate pension reforms, and to modernise pension systems to reflect changing needs of society and individuals.

Key measures

* Communication on the future evolution of social protection from a long-term point of view [61]

[61] COM(2000)622 of 11/10/2000

* Communication on supporting national strategies for safe and sustainable pensions [62]

[62] COM(2001)362 of 03/07/2001

* Contributions by the Social Protection Committee and the Economic Policy Committee examining the social and financial impact of demographic ageing - including through a joint report - and taking forward co-operation for secure and viable pensions.

* Objectives for an open method of co-ordination on pensions endorsed at the Laeken European Council


The timing in the Social Policy Agenda for concrete action on health care is 2003 [63].The Commission has prepared the ground for this work by presenting a Communication on the future of health care and care for the elderly, particularly in the context of demographic ageing [64].

[63] COM(2000)285 of 16/05/2000

[64] COM(2001)723 of 05/12/2001

It explores the foundation for co-operation in the Treaty and other EC acquis and highlights that national systems face common challenges, i.e. ageing, technical innovations and new demands from citizens fostered by raising living standards and better information. It identifies three long-term objectives which should be achieved at the same time:

* Ensuring that everyone has access to health care

* Improving the quality of health care systems

* Maintaining the financial stability of care systems

This Communication will support the drafting of the joint progress report on orientations in the field of health and care for the elderly which the Social Protection Committee and the Economic Policy Committee will submit to the Barcelona European Council.

Work in this area should be seen in relation to the Community's Health Strategy.



Promoting gender equality across the European Union rests on two pillars: mainstreaming and specific measures. Mainstreaming implies that gender equality should become a focus of attention - and policy adjustment where appropriate - in all policy areas. The promotion of gender equality is not only based on rights, but is a major component for promoting economic and social progress. That is the reason why it features so strongly in the employment strategy and is covered in the inclusion strategy. The overall objective is to promote the full participation of women in economic, scientific, social, political and civic life.

A comprehensive overview of progress towards gender equality has been made in the annual report which set the background for the first ever annual work programme for each service of the Commission for the implementation of the framework strategy on gender equality [65] . A Communication on mainstreaming gender equality in Community development co-operation illustrated how mainstreaming operates in other policy areas [66].

[65] SEC(2001)382 of 02/03/2001

[66] COM(2001)295 of 21/06/2001

Binding non-discrimination measures

The European Parliament and the Council are negotiating the review of Directive 76/207 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion and working conditions. A common position was agreed by Council in July 2001 and the EP has delivered its opinion in second reading in October which will then be followed by a conciliation procedure between these two institutions with a view to have a decision taken in the first half of 2002.

Awareness raising

At the centre of awareness raising and exchange of good practice is the action programme which is part of the framework strategy on gender equality. For the year 2001, the focus was on the gender pay gap and how this gap can be reduced and completely bridged [67].

[67] COM(2001)119 of 02/03/2001

A feasibility study has been launched on the establishment of a European gender institute.

Equal pay

Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental principle of the Treaty. It is also still the most visible aspect of gender discrimination in Europe today. This it was chosen as the priority theme for 2001 in the equality programme. The European Council raised the issue of the gender pay gap in March 2001 and identified the need for indicators for monitoring progress. Through both the appraisal of quality in work and the expertise of the employment process, the 'unadjusted' gender pay gap was included as a structural indicator measuring progress on the Lisbon strategy. This work was supported by the European Parliament's own initiative report on the 'equal pay for work of equal value', adopted in September 2001 and by the adoption of 9 pay gap indicators by Council as a follow-up to the Beijing platform.

Reconciliation between working life and family life

This is a policy area which is extensively addressed in the context of the European employment strategy, in particular under the pillar on equal opportunities. However, reconciliation is also facilitated by the existing legislation on parental leave on which the Commission is preparing a report.

Key measures

* Mainstreaming gender equality in all relevant policy areas

* Annual report on Equal opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union 2000 [68]

[68] COM(2001)179 of 02/04/2001

* Addressing the gender pay gap: EP own initiative report [69], the gender equality action programme, structural indicators accompanying the Lisbon strategy

[69] EP own initiative report A5/2001/275 of 11/07/2001

* Strengthening the equal opportunities pillar of the employment strategy

* Progress by the European Parliament and the Council on reviewing the directive on access to employment, vocational training, promotion, and working conditions



The Social Policy Agenda outlined a number of measures which should contribute to preparing enlargement of the Union under conditions of balanced economic and social development. Monitoring compliance with the acquis communautaire in the employment and social field is one important aspect of the preparation for enlargement. Within the pre-accession strategy, an equally important issue is helping to prepare the candidate countries to ensure that, once an EU Member, they can be immediately and fully involved in the existing policy processes. This does not only apply to the employment and social inclusion policy processes, but also implies that the social partners and NGO's can fully participate in policy development and implementation. This work is essentially carried out through bilateral contacts, joint events and the drafting of joint papers.

Shadowing the employment strategy is reflected in the Joint Assessment of Employment Policy Priorities signed by the Commission and the candidate country concerned. At the end of 2001, joint papers were signed for the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Estonia, Malta, Hungary, Slovakia and Cyprus. The Commission is also preparing proposals for developing co-operation with candidate countries on social inclusion. In order to help social partners of candidate countries prepare for accession and to strengthen the social partners structures the Commission has been supporting suitable social partners initiatives.

Measures are being undertaken to prepare candidate countries to participate in the European Social Fund. The Commission presented a Communication on the impact of enlargement on regions bordering candidate countries.

Key measures

* Monitoring of compliance with the acquis communautaire is ongoing

* Joint Assessment Papers on Employment Policy Priorities

* Bilateral contact and joint events to support the role of social partners

* Support for civil society

* Preparation for participation in the ESF

* Communication on Community action for border regions [70]

[70] COM(2001)437 of 25/07/2001

International co-operation

The Commission provided an input into the Durban world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It also presented a Communication on core labour standards and improving social governance in the context of globalisation. The exchange of letters between the Commission and the ILO in May 2001 is important in this context. At the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in November 2001, WTO members confirmed their commitment to core labour standards, and co-operation between ILO and WTO secretariats. To this end, the Community will encourage the WTO Secretariat to have an active role, and the Commission's own co-operation with ILO will be strengthened further to the Doha conclusions.

With regards to women in the Mediterranean countries, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the consequences of globalisation.

To give more visibility to the external dimension of its social policy, the Commission organised in November 2001 a conference "The European Social Agenda and the EU's International Partners".

Key measures

* Communication for Durban anti-racism conference [71]

[71] COM(2001)291 of 01/06/2001

* Communication on core labour standards [72]

[72] COM(2001)416 of 18/07/2001

* EP resolution on the consequences of globalisation for women immigrants from the Mediterranean countries [73]

[73] 'The consequences of globalisation for women immigrants from the Mediterranean countries'

4. Conclusion and future outlook

Overall, the agenda is well on track in terms of transposing commitments into concrete actions. All new issues the Commission announced explicitly to launch before end 2001 have been addressed.

The implementation of the Social Policy Agenda is a clear example of new and improved governance, showing in practice how public authorities at European, national, regional and local level together with Social Partners and civil society effectively work together to bring about reform. This is closely linked to the use of the appropriate combination of policy instruments.

Labour Markets are being reformed through the European Employment Strategy. This is supported by the European Social Fund, in particular through investment in people. The Council and the European Parliament have been pursuing negotiations on a number of legislative proposals in fields including health and safety at the workplace, the involvement of workers and equal treatment between women and men. The open method of co-ordination is delivering concrete measures to fight poverty and social exclusion. Reform of social security systems, in particular pensions, is being addressed with a view to meet both social and financial objectives in a sustainable way. Negotiations by the Social Partners will lead to modernising flexibility and security with regard to the modernisation of work organisation in particular telework. Action programmes on anti-discrimination, equal opportunities and social inclusion do not only facilitate the exchange of experience and good practice, but are also instrumental in involving all stakeholders including NGO's at EU level in these fields. Encouraging voluntary activities by businesses to support sustainable development has been addressed in the green paper on Corporate Social Responsibility.

As to the future, there are a number of important new initiatives to be launched in 2002. The main goal should be to continue carrying out the structural reform envisaged at Lisbon and outlined in the Social Policy Agenda within the different processes and policies, albeit while introducing new elements to respond to new challenges. This will reflect the dynamic and flexible nature of the agenda.

- On the employment front, key initiatives will concern:

* The completion of an evaluation of the first five years of implementation of the Luxembourg process, leading to a Communication which will inspire the Employment package 2002

* Joint Commission/Council report on raising labour force participation and promoting active ageing, following the request of the Stockholm Summit

* The presentation before the Barcelona European Council of an Action Plan on Skills and Mobility. A new measure here could be the preparation of a European health insurance card within the context of the mobility action plan. This will be a crucial aspect of effectively improving free movement within the European Union and will support the development of labour mobility. Later in the year there will also be a proposal to revise the legal basis for EURES.

* The presentation of a Communication on mainstreaming employment into other Community policies, to be presented in 2003.

- On change and the working environment,

* the dynamic and flexible nature of the agenda will be reflected in a new initiative on anticipating and managing change and the need for a new focus on the social aspects of corporate restructuring. This initiative aims at stimulating dialogue between social partners in order to identify and develop best practices on anticipating and managing restructuring. The objective of new focus points will be aimed at facilitating economic improvement and contributing to an environment in which economic recovery can be translated faster and better into more net job creation. Making Europe the most competitive economy in the world by 2010 will precisely require measures to facilitate matching short-term objectives with long-term strategic goals.

* The Commission will present early 2002 a new Health and Safety strategy.

* Building on the Laeken joint declaration of the social partners, a renewal of the social dialogue, related to the economic context could furthermore include:

- The completion of new "voluntary agreements" on lifelong learning and telework

- Strengthening the involvement of the social partners in the open method of co-ordination, in particular in the employment strategy.

- Strengthening the sectoral social dialogue in relation with the economic evolution.

- The promotion of corporate social responsibility with a framework of reference for future developments, building on a new communication on corporate social responsibility.

* The Commission will also present before the Summer 2002 a communication on the social dialogue with a proposal for a new concertation committee.

* Furthermore, the Commission will launch a second stage consultation on the protection of employees data in the first half of 2002. It will also present a Communication and an action plan on financial participation.

* As far as legislation is concerned, the Commission will present early 2002 a proposal for a Directive on temporary agency work. It will also consider a revision of the European Works Council Directive.

- As far as Social Inclusion is concerned,

* the setting of concrete long term targets for the Union, in the light of the Lisbon commitment to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010, by building upon the agreed report on indicators on social inclusion would constitute an important initiative in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

* Overall, however, 2002 should be a year of consolidation of the recently launched inclusion process. It will also see the beginning of the implementation of the action programme.

* Furthermore, specific attention will be given to the preparation of the European Year for the Disabled.

- With regard to the modernisation of social protection,

* the first national strategies on pensions are expected before September 2002, and a first Commission/Council Joint Report is scheduled for December.

* also for Health Care and Care for the Elderly, an initial report will be presented before the Barcelona European Council.

- The combination of instruments available will be used in 2002 to enhance gender equality with

* A proposal for a Directive, based on Article 13 of the EC treaty to combat discrimination on the basis of sex in areas other than employment and occupation;

* A policy initiative on gender in external relations;

* The concentration of efforts on the theme of reconciliation between working life and family life in the context of the European employment strategy under the pillar on equal opportunities

* The action programme in the area of parental leave on which the Commission is preparing a report.

* Conference on violence against women

- As far as enlargement and external relations are concerned,

* Co-operation with candidate countries will be intensified and the 2003 Commission Annual Synthesis Report will refer to progress achieved in the employment and social fields.

* To be highlighted in the pre-accession strategy are the preparatory measures to facilitate the candidate countries to participate in the open method of co-ordination in the area of employment and social inclusion, as well as the progressive opening up to candidate countries of the employment and social programmes.

* With regard to international co-operation activities, the Commission will be organising joint events on 'Skills and Mobility' with the USA on 'Older Workers' with Japan in early 2002.

* Active ageing will also be at the centre of the World Assembly on ageing in Madrid and the G-8 in Montreal in April 2002.

* Through co-operation with the ILO specific attention will be given to labour standards, including in the context of follow-up to the Communication on core labour standards.

Also for 2002, the Agenda will be a good example of how all Community instruments can be combined to reach strategic objectives. The open method of co-ordination, legislation, social dialogue, support via the structural funds, European support programmes all together are geared towards reaching the objectives of economic and social progress.

However, the success of its implementation will entirely depend on the commitment of all actors to take up their responsibility.