Towards active inclusion of the people furthest from the labour market
The Commission proposes a holistic strategy termed “active inclusion” to support the integration of people at the margins of the labour market. The results of a vast public consultation have made it possible to define a set of common principles intended to improve the skills of the marginalised and allow them to integrate into job markets and increase their income.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 October 2007 entitled “Modernising social protection for greater social justice and economic cohesion: taking forward the active inclusion of people furthest from the labour market” [COM(2007) 620 final, not published in the Official Journal].
In spite of the fact that the European Union (EU) is one of the richest regions in the world, part of its population remains socially excluded.
16% of Europe’s population is at risk of financial poverty. One European in five lives in sub-standard housing and one in ten lives in a household where nobody holds a job.Unemployment , financial poverty, social exclusion and young people leaving school early are all obstacles to achieving the Lisbon Objectives.
For this reason, the Commission has put forward a holistic “active inclusion” strategy aimed at providing social support for the pursuit of an economic activity, thereby making it possible for people facing serious problems to hold a job with support and according to a schedule that is adapted to their difficulties. The key objectives of this new strategy are:
- to integrate the individuals involved into working life;
- to reduce poverty;
- to avoid high budget costs.
How can the disadvantaged groups of society be integrated?
The Commission estimates that 8% of workers are at risk of slipping below the poverty line. This fact makes clear that there is a need to develop integrated services to take up the challenge raised by social exclusion and poverty.
The objectives of the new strategy are intended to strengthen the ties between integration into working life, a guarantee of minimum income and access to social services of general interest (career guidance, health care, child care, lifelong learning, etc.).
There are three strands to this “active inclusion” approach:
- income support sufficient to avoid social exclusion;
- access to inclusive labour markets;
- better access to quality social services.
By deepening the Open Method of Coordination, the Commission wishes to adopt common principles which respect the autonomy and the different situations within each Member State. These emphasise:
- the right to resources sufficient to live in a manner compatible with human dignity, taking account of the active availability of the person in question for work or for vocational training. The amounts allocated are based on statistics on average income, household consumption, the minimum wage, or the level of prices in the Member State concerned;
- better access to the labour market by focusing on assistance for personalised occupational guidance and financial incentives for jobseekers and employers;
- the accessibility (financial and territorial) and the quality of social services of general interest (personal assistance, activities to ensure reintegration into society and the labour market, and affordable child care facilities).
This approach requires the full participation of the public authorities (nationally, regionally and locally), the social partners, service providers and NGOs.
In order to raise the profile of best practices, the Commission plans to establish a network of local observatories using the resources available in the framework of the PROGRESS programme.
The Commission would like to specify that the European Social Fund can provide a long-term financial framework in support of the social inclusion measures.
Results of the public consultation
This Communication was prepared in the light, in particular, of the results of the public consultation launched in February 2006 on the need for Community-wide action to promote the active inclusion of the people furthest from the labour market. This emphasised the elements that were indispensable to the success of the active inclusion strategy, namely:
- the need for a holistic approach and overall support for renewed EU efforts towards active inclusion. Social inclusion and labour market participation go hand-in-hand;
- the importance of the role of the European social partners, particularly in the promotion of job retention and quality in addressing the high percentage of working poor;
- the participation and cooperation of all relevant actors such as local and national governments, service providers (public, private or mixed), civil society organisations and the people in question themselves;
- reinforcing the Open Method of Coordination on social protection and social inclusion and the European Employment Strategy.
The active inclusion measures supplement the European Social Agenda and contribute to achieving the objectives of the Lisbon strategy.