A Strong Social Europe Must Target Child Poverty

Eurochild calls on the EU to set targets that will half child poverty by 2030.

Credit Jeroen Jutte/Twitter

As the EU looks towards the future with its European Green Deal, Eurochild calls for a long-term strategy that equally sets targets to reduce child poverty, which remains unacceptably high across Europe (over 24% EU average). While the European Green Deal, looks to prioritise tackling the burning of fossil fuels & Europe’s carbon footprint, it does not sufficiently or ambitiously outline how to address the continent’s burning social issues, including child poverty and rising social inequality. In the meantime, the global Sustainable Development Goals are slowly making their way into the EU’s long-term thinking, but it is not clear how fundamental they will be for steering it. Simply put, unless a new Europe 2030 strategy combines its green ambitions with the social, the EU runs the risk of ignoring core issues for the people of Europe in its next long-term strategy, including children.

Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Europe – an overview

On 27 January 2020, Eurochild presented to the European Union’s Social Protection and Employment Committees. Alongside other civil society members, Eurochild’s Head of Advocacy Réka Tunyogi presented our reaction to the 2020 Semester Autumn Package and our findings from Eurochild’s 2019 report on the Semester:

Children continue to be at higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than the general population (24.3% vs 21.9%)

Children in vulnerable situations, such as children with a migrant background, from ethnic minorities and children with disabilities, are experiencing persisting inequalities of opportunities

Child poverty is multidimensional, and there is no silver bullet. What we do need are comprehensive national strategies across all Member States for reducing child poverty. They will not only deliver more sustainable results for children but will be essential for putting in place the upcoming EU Child Guarantee, an ambitious initiative that aims to guarantee key services to all children in the EU.

Greater social investment in areas such as inclusive services, including healthcare, early childhood development and education

The transition from institutional to family- and community-based care, and the participation of children in decision-making need to become more prominent in the European Semester process to realise the rights of all children in Europe. 

Recommendations for the EU to put children at the heart of Europe

With these challenges in mind, Eurochild recommends the following to strengthen social policies through the European Semester process:

1. Incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into EU policy. This should include SDG 1’s target of halving poverty for all populations, children included, by 2030. The European Pillar of Social Rights and Social Scoreboard are the drivers for social EU targets in line with the SDGs. 

2. Improve the social dimension of the next long-term EU growth strategy. Europe 2020 pulled together different dimensions in one long-term strategy with accompanying targets. However, not all targets were prioritised equally. Poverty reduction is falling far short of the 20 million target. The next EU growth strategy, or “Europe 2030” needs to be more ambitious in these targets and hold the EU and Member States accountable on social progress through the Semester.

3. The European Semester should help assess impact of social investment from national and EU budgets. Due to the nature of its regularity, the Semester has the potential to play a monitoring role of the national action plans to address social challenges in the new multi-annual financial framework and the use of EU cohesion policy. 

4. Civil society has a key role to play in this transitional period, and Eurochild welcomes that the EU is improving its engagement with civil society. During the meeting of the Social Protection and Employment Committees, Social Platform, that Eurochild is part of, was invited to listen to the reactions of each EU Member State and social partners to the Autumn Package for the first time.