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Brussels, 16th December 2010

EU puts the fight against poverty at the heart of goals for jobs and growth

Over 80 million people in the EU are still living at risk of poverty and a quarter of these citizens are children. The economic crisis has exacerbated this situation, exposing vulnerable groups even more. With the 2010 European Year against Poverty and Social Exclusion drawing to a close, the EU must continue to step up its efforts for the decade to come on this key issue. Bringing vulnerable groups into the heart of our societies and labour markets is central to sustainable and inclusive growth. Poverty reduction is an engine for this future growth. At the initiative of the European Commission, EU leaders have already set, for the first time ever, a concrete numerical target to reduce poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020. Today's communication, 'The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion' sets out ways to help Member States move up a gear in fighting social exclusion. Countries now have to set their own ambitious national targets, reporting annually on their progress. The Commission will support these efforts, mobilising – among others – policies like social protection, employment and education, as well as EU funding. It will also promote new partnerships and new ways of combating poverty through social innovation to test new policy ideas.

Speaking to journalists at the launch of the new poverty flagship initiative, László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said "Combating poverty is both a moral duty and an economic necessity. With millions still living on the margins of society we are wasting our human resources. Children, young people, migrants, the elderly and other vulnerable groups need particular attention." He added "I am confident that the Platform flagship initiative will contribute to meeting the EU level target by acting as a springboard for innovative and cost-effective solutions in the fight against social exclusion”.

As one of the seven flagship initiatives of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy, the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion communication sets out actions to bolster work at all levels to reach the EU headline poverty reduction target. It is complementary and strongly linked to the other flagships which focus on raising employment and improving education and skills.

Today's communication considers both the challenges Europe currently faces in combating poverty and social exclusion, as well as the changing nature of poverty. The communication also identifies the overall need to deliver anti-poverty actions across the entire policy spectrum such as: preventing the transmission of poverty through generations and tackling child poverty; using employment as a route out of poverty through active inclusion strategies; and stepping up efforts to integrate minority groups like the Roma people socially and economically.

Member States must take the lead in fighting against social exclusion and poverty. They will spell out their initiatives in the National Reform Programmes linked to the Europe 2020 strategy, as contributions to deliver growth and jobs. The Commission will evaluate these actions and set best practices.

Key actions in the Platform include:

  • Promoting innovation in social policy. Encouraging innovation to find smart solutions in post-crisis Europe, especially in terms of more effective and efficient social support. This means promoting evidence-based innovation in social policy, where the use of evidence-based methods tests and assesses policy change. For example, testing different ways of distributing or managing existing benefits on specific groups.

  • At EU level. Making the best use of all EU Funds, in particular the European Social Fund, to support social inclusion objectives and proposing social policy as a priority for future EU funding. The new Microfinance Facility will be up and running in early 2011 and aims to help vulnerable groups access loans to set up their own business.

  • Making social protection and services more effective and responsive to new social needs. The Commission will publish a White Paper in 2011 to address the safety, adequacy and sustainability of pensions. Actions linked to the quality of social services, health inequalities and housing exclusion are also planned and 2012 will be the European Year of Active Ageing.

  • Bringing on board a much wider range of partners to fight exclusion. The Commission will set out voluntary guidelines on stakeholders' involvement in defining, shaping and carrying out poverty reduction actions to take on at national, regional and local level.

Further information

The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion' Communication:

'The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion': Citizens' summary:

Eurobarometer survey "Poverty and Social Exclusion"

See also: MEMO/10/687

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