On 20 February, the European Commission presented a Communication on its Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion. The initiative aims to help member states use their social budgets more efficiently and effectively by promoting best practices and providing guidance on social investment.
Social investment involves strengthening people’s current and future capacities. In particular, social investment helps ’prepare’ people to confront life’s risks, rather than simply ’repairing’ the consequences. This means that member states need to put a greater focus on policies which yield high returns throughout people’s lifetimes, such as childcare, education, training, active labour market policies, housing support, rehabilitation and health services. For example, making pre-schooling more widely accessible to children has been shown to have a sizeable and persistent positive effect on a child’s ability to succeed in school and, in the long term, obtain higher wages in the labour market.
To ensure implementation of the package the Commission would review member states’ performance on the basis of the employment and poverty targets of the Europe2020 strategy and social protection reform. This would be based partly on a number of specific criteria that member states have agreed should be included in a social protection performance monitor.
Focussed EU financial support would be available to help to meet the defined targets, notably from the European Social Fund over the period 2014-20.
The Communication includes a proposal for a recommendation on the fight against child poverty and announces proposals for legislation on access to basic payment services and support to social innovation, microfinance and social enterprises.
As a result of the prolonged economic and financial crisis, EU member states are facing the contradictory challenges of a ’social emergency’ – increasing poverty and inequalities and record unemployment - combined with cuts in public spending. In addition, member states continue to face the challenges of an ageing population. Under-investment in social policies now will result in greater costs in the future. Targeted social spending to improve an individual’s chances throughout his/her life, through integrating them better into the labour market and society, benefits their prosperity, boosts the economy and helps to reduce higher social spending in the future stages of life.
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