19th Mar 2018

EU to proclaim 'pillar' of social rights in Gothenburg

European leaders are meeting in Sweden to discuss social issues as part of an effort to boost jobs and growth.

The half-day summit on Friday (17 November) in Gothenburg will bring together heads of state and government, as well as the EU institutions.

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Billed as an event to "strengthen the EU's social dimension", the leaders will discuss, among other things, the future of education and culture.

The European Parliament, the EU Council representing member states, and the European Commission will also proclaim a European Pillar of Social Rights, whose first preamble calls for a Europe with full employment, balanced economic growth, social progress, and a quality environment.

In a statement on Thursday, Sweden's prime minister Stefan Loefven said the event would broadly focus on how to improve people's lives.

How to ease access to the labour market and how to ensure decent work are among the questions that will be asked.

"With the social summit we are making a clear commitment to put the interest of our citizens at the heart of the EU agenda," he said.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and co-host of the summit, said it was an opportunity "to seek out common solutions".

The problems

Despite some overall economic improvements through the EU, the task will not be easy.

Europe still has fewer people in the workforce when compared to Canada, Japan, and the United States.

But it is not just about jobs, demographics are also shifting as people over 65 now outnumber those under 14.

There will be 38 million fewer Europeans of working age by 2060 should the trend continue.

A study out by the Bertelsmann Foundation also ranked member state social justice index from 1 to 10.

It looked at poverty prevention, education, labour market access, social cohesion, health, and justice.

Denmark ranked top with 7.39, followed by Sweden (7.31), and Finland (7.14). Greece had the worst score with 3.7, followed by Romania (3.99), and Bulgaria (4.19).

The EU average is 5.85.

The study says labour market recovery is key to social improvements, noting that EU states are broadly better off when compared with the height of the financial crisis.

However, youth unemployment in places like Greece, Italy and Spain remains high.

Over 47 percent of the youth in Greece have no jobs. Spain is marginally better at 44.4 percent, followed by Italy at 37.8 percent.

The risk of poverty also remains for almost one in four EU citizens or 23.4 percent, down only from 24.7 percent in 2012.

The EU commission says the event will also feed into the broader debate on the future of Europe.

Juncker had earlier this year put forward five scenarios on the potential future of the Union ahead of the European Parliament elections in 2019.


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