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Investing in Children based on a solid Social Pillar

On 23 January the European Commission held a high-level event on its upcoming initiative, “European Pillar of Social Rights”.

Photo © European Union , 2017

Eurochild representatives share below their feedback from this conference.

1. Social policy & economic policy two sides of the same coin

We welcome the active and high level participation of Commission directorates beyond the obvious Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner at the conference. In their speeches they mentioned repeatedly that social policy needs to be on equal footing with economic policy. An important message, when many EU citizens miss to see the added value of being united in a Union unless its social policy is given the same priority as economic development. The Pillar offers a chance for Europe to actually invest in people – in children and in families - something that has been lacking in the past years. On the downside, the Pillar will only apply to Eurozone countries which risks creating a two-tier Europe.

2. Increasing attention given to child poverty shows political concern across Europe

There was a strong message during the event that prevention and early intervention programmes are effective. Investing in children are often mentioned as national priorities contributing to lower youth unemployment and more equal societies in the near future. To make the European Pillar of Social Rights meaningful for children and families it has to entail instruments (legislative and non-legislative) that have strong financial backing and be underpinned by rights-based approach. It is crucial that existing policy guidance - such as the European Commission Recommendation on Investing in Children - and existing international treaties – such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Social Charter - are reinforced by the Pillar. 

3. Policy reforms are needed – where to start?

The conference paid attention to retailoring social policy to meet individual needs and rights. From a child rights perspective this means improving social protection systems, supporting families, ensuring all children have access to high quality services and are consulted on decisions affecting their lives.

A commonly agreed European target and benchmarks to reduce child poverty and social exclusion among children would be a first step. Children are impacted by all dimensions of the Pillar, their rights therefore need to be better reflected under each policy domain. Measuring outcomes for children could be done by improving the portfolio of child well-being indicators. In terms of process, the European Semester should be used to monitor progress on the Pillar’s benchmarks.

4. Consulting NGOs and children is a must if we want to see wise and effective solutions

The conference followed a long period of public consultations which involved governments and social partners, as well as civil society. However it is disappointing how children and young people seem to have been be forgotten in this process. We feel that events organized for young people by the institutions must be reflective of society. Children and young people are the ones who have to “carry” the Pillar in the future and who will (hopefully) be one of the main beneficiaries of the Pillar. 

European Commission President Juncker said the Social Pillar is our last chance to save Europe.
In the design and implementation of policy processes to follow from the European Pillar of Social Rights we encourage the European Commission to continue to engage in a meaningful dialogue with civil society, as well people impacted by its measures, including children and young people themselves.

By Pien Klieverik (Dutch Children’s Rights Coalition - DCI Netherlands), Ivanka Shalapatova (National Network for Children Bulgaria – For Our Children Foundation ) and Réka Tunyogi (Eurochild Secretariat)

Background:

The European Pillar for Social Rights is expected to “become a reference framework to screen employment and social performance of participating Member States and to drive reforms at national level”. The European Commission is expected to publish its proposal of a European Pillar of Social Rights, along with a White Paper on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union by the end of March 2017. A stocktaking document on the 2013 Investing in Children Recommendation is expected at the same time.

Read more about the Conference and the consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights here

Read Eurochild’s key messages on the Social Pillar here