Scoreboard on implementing the 2004 social policy agenda
The Commission has presented the fourth scoreboard in order to report on the implementation of the European social policy agenda. This communication monitors how the agenda is transformed into policy measures and concrete action.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda [COM(2004) 137 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
1. The Commission's current scoreboard responds to the invitation made both by the European Parliament and the European Council to keep track of the achievements made in European social policy in recent years. This policy is intended to modernise and improve the European social model established at the Lisbon European Council.
Evaluation of the economic, employment and social situation in the last three years (2000-2003)
2. The first period of the European social policy agenda (2000-2003) was essentially marked by a period of sustained growth slowdown in Europe and the economy's performance continued to be weak. However, economic forecasts project that GDP growth will pick up in 2004.
3. This economic stagnation has had an impact on employment, which has also increased slightly. Unless the Member States step up their reform efforts, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the employment objectives for 2010 will be attained.
4. With regard to the social situation, the latest available income data shows that about 15% of the EU population (55 million individuals) were at risk of poverty in 2001, and more than half of them were at risk of poverty in at least two of the preceding three years.
5. The Commission is using the current scoreboard to evaluate the social measures which have been adopted and to monitor implementation. However, the adoption of new measures has been postponed until 2004 to allow a more in-depth evaluation of possible scenarios. The scoreboard analyses the implementation of the agenda in the following areas:
- creating more and better jobs;
- anticipating and managing change;
- social inclusion and fighting discrimination;
- modernising social protection;
- promoting gender equality;
- strengthening the social policy aspects of enlargement and the European Union's external policies.
Creating more and better jobs
6. An absolute top priority of the social policy agenda is to work towards the goal of full employment, defined in the Lisbon strategy as raising the employment rate to as close as possible to 70% by 2010. However, reaching the employment target for 2005 has become unattainable, and there is a risk that the 2010 target will not be reached either. For a better understanding of the causes of these results, the employment strategy was evaluated in depth, focusing on the following points:
- strengthening and coordinating employment in order to address the remaining structural weaknesses in the labour markets;
- the quality of jobs, to allow Europe to reach its goal of full employment;
- reviewing the role of the European Social Fund (ESF), which contributes to strengthening convergence and cohesion, and of EQUAL, the Community initiative to combat all forms of discrimination and inequality;
- lifelong learning in order to improve people's careers;
- mobility and implementation of the EURES network, designed to find jobs and vocational training in other Member States;
- immigration policy and employment in order to integrate migrants entirely into the labour market, as well as into social, cultural and civic life.
7. The European Council's political orientations on the social policy agenda called for fresh collective responses to manage the changes in the economy and the labour market. It also identified social dialogue and consultation as key instruments in managing change. The implementation of the social partners' multiannual work programme adopted at the end of 2002 is of crucial importance in this respect.
8. The measures adopted for the management of change in European social policy are based on:
- involving workers in managing change, which will allow the development of a European cooperative structure for the effective involvement of employees;
- health and safety at work as set out in the Community strategy proposed by the Commission for the period 2002-2006;
- working environment and working relations, in particular gender equality, the protection of privacy in the employment context and the improvement of occupational pension rights;
- corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is designed to encourage enterprises to integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations on a voluntary basis.
Social inclusion and fighting discrimination
9. The draft Joint Report on Social Inclusion highlights the importance of fighting poverty and social exclusion and underlines the immediate link with economic development.
10. This approach to social inclusion is based on:
- the social inclusion strategy, fighting poverty and social exclusion by applying the open method of coordination, which is intended to eradicate poverty by 2010;
- the eradication of the digital divide by means of the R&D and structural funds programmes such as eEurope 2002, with a view to creating an information society for all;
- equal treatment for third-country nationals, for example in relation to social security schemes;
- combating discrimination via European legislation, campaigns against all forms of discrimination and the creation of a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia;
- the integration of people with disabilities by means of an action plan on equal opportunities introduced in 2003, the European Year of People with Disabilities;
- support for civil dialogue in the field of social policy in order to promote active European citizenship.
Modernising social protection
11. In order to make coordination in the social field more operational, the Commission has proposed to gradually streamline the coordination processes into a single entity by the year 2006. This approach should increase the strategic importance of coordination in the social domain, bringing social inclusion, pensions, health care and making work pay within one open method of coordination.
12. The principal measures taken to modernise social protection are based on the following points:
- application of the open method of coordination for the adoption of adequate and sustainable pensions in order to address the challenge of an ageing population;
- achieving high-quality and sustainable health care with a view to guaranteeing the future of health care and care for the elderly;
- making work pay by connecting social inclusion, social protection and employment policy;
- modernising the coordination of social security systems, in particular simplifying invalidity benefits, old age and survivors' benefits, introduction of the European Health Insurance Card and the EU-Swiss Agreement on the free movement of persons.
Promoting gender equality
13. The Social Policy agenda defines two major approaches to promoting gender equality: mainstreaming and specific initiatives.
14. With regard to mainstreaming in the social field, the Commission reports every year on progress made in Community policies and practices in the wider context of social protection, such as pensions and making work pay.
15. With regard to specific measures, the Commission presented a proposal for a directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women with regard to access to goods and services, a new action programme to promote European organisations in the field of equality and a public consultation with a view to simplifying the existing legislation.
Strengthening the social policy aspects of enlargement and the EU's external policies
16. The top priority for enlargement is ensuring compliance with the Community acquis. In order to facilitate the participation of the accession countries, special attention is given to preparing for their participation in the open method of cooperation in the fields of employment and social inclusion. Enlargement also requires investment in capacity building, in particular with regard to the social partners and preparations for future operations under the European Social Fund.
17. Several measures have been taken to promote employment, the fight against social exclusion, non-discrimination and equal opportunities.
18. The Commission has increased its cooperation with international organisations such as the OECD and the ILO with regard to international cooperation and external relations, with countries such as Japan and the USA in relation to employment, with the G-8 in relation to investment in human resources and with the UN in relation to human rights and the rights of people with disabilities.
19. The outcome of this cooperation has been the worldwide promotion of core labour standards, social dialogue, poverty eradication and the decent work agenda.
Initiatives for 2004
20. The mid-term review of the social policy agenda updated the planning of policy action for the years 2004 and 2005, based on the assessment of the first years of implementation of the social policy agenda and the assessment of the main challenges to be addressed. This review has also identified two key priorities: consolidating social standards throughout the EU by ensuring the correct transposal and application of the Community acquis and implementing the agenda adopted at the Lisbon Summit and the social policy agenda endorsed by the Nice European Council.
21. In 2004, the Commission plans to take measures in the six areas mentioned above.