Social agenda in European integration and development

In the EU’s development triangle, in the so-called “social market economy”, most vital is its social facet, which distinguishes “European capitalism” from some traditional western-liberal connotations. At the end of 2021, the European Commission adopted a new action plan on the social economy with concrete measures to “mobilise full potential of the social economy”.

The social aspects in growth are being quite popular in political economy: thus, recent search in the Commission’s information data-base on “social market economy” has shown an impressive figure of about 530 thousand hits, the fact which reflects the notion’s popularity among readers and researchers.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/search/?QueryText=social+market+economy++&op=Search&swlang=en&form_build_id=form-UWEt4T3Wee4OVEqe5JYklqbomH4Ppbd6QbEy25EZupw&form_id=nexteuropa_europa_search_search_form

Specific EU’s website “social economy in EU” underlines that European social economy “encompasses a variety of businesses, organisations and different legal entities”, which share the objective of “systematically putting people first, producing a positive impact on local communities and pursuing a social cause”. There are 2.8 million social economy enterprises, representing 10% of all businesses in the EU. Almost 13.6 million people – about 6.2% of the EU’s employees – work for social economy enterprises. On top of the paid workforce, social economy mobilises volunteers, equivalent to 5.5 million full-time workers.
Source : https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/proximity-and-social-economy/social-economy-eu_en

At the end of 2021, the European Commission adopted a new action plan on the social economy in which it put forward concrete measures to help “mobilise the full potential of the social economy, building on the results of the 2011 Social Business Initiative and the 2016 Start-up and Scale-up Initiative. The plan noticed that “despite progress made under previous initiatives”, there is a strong need of improvements in several areas, including improved visibility and recognition of better access to finance and markets as key aspects of the action plan.
The Action Plan provided a useful guidance for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, in such areas as employment, skills, health, and social protection.
The implementation of the principles in the European Pillar of Social Rights will be essential to ensure the creation of more and better jobs for all within the framework of an inclusive recovery. In this respect, relevant legislative and non-legislative work should be taken forward at EU and the member states level.
Source: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1537&langId=en

A year of extensive efforts…
Thus, a year ago, European “partners” – state leaders, labour organisations and civil society’s representatives signed the Porto Social Commitment, one of the most comprehensive and ambitious tripartite commitments ever reached in the EU. Besides, on 8 May last year, the European Heads of State and government adopted the “Porto Declaration”, establishing the priorities for the further implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights across the EU.
Both agreements welcomed the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan presented by the Commission and endorsed its three 2030 headline targets: a) an employment rate of at least 78% in the EU-27, b) at least 60% of adults attending training courses every year, and c) reducing the number of people at risk of social exclusion or poverty by at least 15 million people, including five million children.
More on Porto Declaration in: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/05/08/the-porto-declaration/
During last year, the EU member states continued working towards more social and economic fairness and resilience, including by promoting the adequacy of minimum wages, improving the working conditions in the platform economy, increasing pay transparency, and by establishing a European Child Guarantee, the European Platform on Combating Homelessness, the Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030, and the Social Economy Action Plan, among others.
Delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights is a vital responsibility for the EU institutions and the member states in order to promote the citizens’ well-being and protect European shared goals and values.
With the aim to further contributing to the European social dimension, Portugal will organise a forum every two years in Porto in connection to the milestones of the Porto Social Commitment, starting on its second anniversary, in May 2023.
Source: Commission press release at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_22_2879

Unfortunately, among 42 “topics” in the Commission’s activities there is no a specific indication on “social policy”, though some adjacent topics do exist, e.g. consumers, digital economy and society, food safety, home affairs, justice and fundamental rights, migration and asylum, public health, etc.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/info/topics_en

For example, recent report prepared by the Eurofound (Spring 2022) analysed the involvement of social partners (i.e. it is where the business community’s interest takes stock) in the preparation of the national recovery plans; report’s key findings were, generally, disappointing.
It mentioned, among other things, that the social partners in the EU states “considered that the consultation process could have been better planned and organised: i.e. the quality and intensity of the social partners’ involvement was uneven and rather weak in a relatively high number of countries”.
The report concluded that several national recovery-resilience plans (RRPs) “only briefly” described the social partners’ inclusion in the RRP-consultation process “without making explicit the social partners’ views”.
Citations from: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef21002en.pdf

Social partners in recovery plans: Eurofund findings

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