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European Pillar of Social Rights

In 2017, the European Commission presented a communication establishing what is known as the European Pillar of Social Rights. The social pillar – the purpose of which is to deliver improved living and working conditions in the European Union (EU) – sets out 20 key principles and rights.

These principles and rights fall within three themes:

  • equal opportunities and access to the labour market (e.g. skills, education and lifelong learning, equal opportunities, gender equality and active support to employment);
  • fair working conditions (e.g. secure and adaptable employment, wages, information about employment conditions and protection in the event of dismissals, social dialogue and work–life balance);
  • social protection and inclusion (e.g. childcare, minimum income, unemployment benefits, inclusion of people with disabilities, assistance for the homeless, access to essential services, health and long-term care).

At the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg in November 2017, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the Commission demonstrated their joint commitment by adopting a common proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The social pillar serves as a reference framework to monitor the performance of EU Member States’ employment and social policies by means of a social scoreboard, and incorporates a new approach to mainstream social priorities into all EU policies.

In 2021, the Commission adopted the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan. The plan has the following three headline targets to be met by 2030:

  • at least 78% of the population aged 20 to 64 should be in employment;
  • at least 60% of all adults should be participating in training every year; and
  • a reduction of at least 15 million in the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

The plan also identifies a set of actions to be taken in the areas of more and better jobs, skills, equality, social protection and inclusion.

In 2022, the EU adopted a directive on minimum wages, reflecting principle 6 of the social pillar, which is the right of EU workers to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living. It also adopted the gender balance on boards directive, which incorporates among its principles equality of treatment and opportunities between women and men, including regarding participation in the labour market, terms and conditions of employment and career progression.